Quaker abolitionist Elisha Tyson established a successful milling business along the Jones Falls during Baltimore’s early stages as an American town. In the 1790s his Woodberry Flour Mill was rapidly turning grain to flour, providing a conduit between the regions farmers and the city’s burgeoning port. The radical Tyson embraced philanthropic ideals, using his acquired wealth to give back to the city’s less fortunate.
Tyson was an advocate of African-Americans, fighting for their freedom as well as providing institutions to better their welfare. In 1801 Tyson and Archbishop John Carroll founded the Baltimore Dispensary, the city’s first free health clinic for all citizens regardless of race or gender. Three years later he and Mayor Edward Johnson helped open the Baltimore House of Industry to provide vocational training and housing for the disadvantaged. That same year Tyson, along with Robert Goodloe Harper, John McKim, Andrew Ellicott and other Baltimore business men, successfully lobbied local government to pipe sufficient and sanitary water to the town’s growing residents.
Along with fellow business associates, Tyson helped fund and organize the Falls Road Turnpike (once a Native American trail and now Falls Road) that connected his and other Jones Falls mills to the harbor. He may have used the route as part of an Underground Railroad system operating in the area. Hideouts are rumored to still exist under the Greenway Cottages on 40th Street. He even directly challenged City Council on several occasions, successfully influencing legislation on the out-of-state sale of slaves. Legend claims that no less than 3000 blacks joined his grand funeral procession in 1824. Tyson was buried at Friends Aisquith Street Cemetery until 1906, when his remains were moved to Green Mount.
Elisha Tyson built his summer home on the east bank of the Jones Falls sometime between 1790 and 1804. The Quaker incorporated the Woodberry Flour Mill in 1790 and eventually erected his residence directly above the enterprise. The house faces the former estate of Colonel Nicholas Rogers IV, now known as Druid Hill Park. The Tyson gristmill stood where the Mount Vernon Mill No. 1 and No. 2 buildings stand today.
In 2005 local preservationists Robyn Lyles and Mark Thistle purchased the Stone Hill, Hampden property. The two diligently restored the Tyson house to its original form. Materials were removed, restored and reused when possible and previous alterations, though minimal, were undone. The entire process took four years and around a half million dollars. Completed in 2009, the address won the 2010 Baltimore Heritage Preservation Award.