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John Cain American Can Company Building Collection

Identifier: R0181-ACC

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Content Description

The collection documents the historic preservation and subsequent redevelopment of the American Can Company site in the waterfront neighborhood of Canton in southeast Baltimore City. Types of materials include correspondence, newspaper clippings, preservation reports, handwritten notes, development corporation circulars, and committee reports from the grassroots activist organization, the Waterfront Coalition.


  • 1980 - 1998


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that they own copyright, the donor has assigned the copyright of this collection to the University Foundation. However, copyright for some items in this collection are held by their respective creators.

Biographical Note

John L. Cain was a Democrat who served as Baltimore's 1st District City Councilman from 1991 to 2004. Representing the Canton neighborhood, he angered local businessmen by siding with community organizers and grassroots activists in the Waterfront Coalition over commercial redevelopment in Southeast Baltimore. A graduate of Baltimore City College and Concordia Collegiate Institute, Cain served in the U.S. Army and was a radio news director and editor of the East Baltimore Guide. He passed away January 17, 2020.

[Information for this historical note was gathered from a 1995 Baltimore Sun newspaper article and the website]

Historical Note

In 1895, the Norton Tin Can and Plate Company built their factory at Boston & Hudson Streets in Baltimore City's southeast waterfront district. By 1901 the site was acquired by the American Can Company and after merging with the Sanitary Can Company of New York, became the largest manufacturer of cans in the United States. Additional buildings were constructed on the site to keep up with production through the 1960s. A merger with the National Can Company in the 1980s closed the factory and left the site vacant, with failed attempts by Baltimore City government to rehabilitate the parcel. After a portion of the site was acquired by Safeway grocery store in 1994, the remaining 4.3 acres was purchased in 1997 by the Can Company LLC. Redevelopment of the complex as a mixed-use retail and commercial hub was completed by Struever Brothers, Eccles, and Rouse in 1998. MCB Real Estate purchased the site from Struever Brothers for 42.9 million dollars in 2017.

[Information for this historical note was gathered from the Explore Baltimore Heritage website, the Library of Congress Historic American Engineering Record, and an April 12, 2018 article from Baltimore Business Journal.]


0.83 Linear feet (2 containers)

Language of Materials



Collection is organized as an inventory.

Custodial History

The records were collected and created by former Baltimore City Councilman, John L. Cain. The records were given to Carolyn Boitnott in 2020, who donated them to the University of Baltimore Foundation on October 12, 2022.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Aiden Faust in 2022.

Finding aid for the John Cain American Can Company Building Collection
Finding aid created by Aiden Faust (2022).
October 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Baltimore Studies Archives Repository

H. Mebane Turner Learning Commons, Room 104
1415 Maryland Avenue
Baltimore Maryland 21201 USA