For much of last year, Tom Cuddy
had what could be called a burning desire.He
wanted to solve the mystery of the Main Street fire.Not the Annapolis blaze of eight years ago, but rather one from 200 years earlier that leveled a city bakery.The site at 99 Main St. is now being transformed into a museum and historical resource center.
What the former Historic Annapolis Foundation
archaeologist uncovered by studying artifacts and poring over historical records for hundreds of hours is a tale of arson, corruption and misfortune that shows just how hard it was for a small businessman to succeed in the turbulent economic times following the American Revolution.
"Archaeology is uncovering things," Mr. Cuddy
No one was injured in the fire, and reports of it are glaringly similar to a series of other fires around that time in Philadelphia, Alexandria and Baltimore, Mr. Cuddy
Given that, and given the strife between small artisans like Fleming and larger merchants in the post-Revolutionary period, Mr. Cuddy
started to formulate his arson theory.
They made Mr. Cuddy
surmise that the papers wanted to stay out of the trouble brewing between the factions.
"Things are too coincidental (for the bakery fire) to be an accident," he
disappears," Mr. Cuddy
believes the money Fleming paid was directly related to the business climate of the time.
Perhaps Fleming saw the burning of the building as his only way out, or perhaps the larger merchants saw it as a way to force him out, Mr. Cuddy
"I feel sorry for him," Mr, Cuddy
said of Fleming.
...Despite all this, Mr. Cuddy - who now works as an archeologist for URS Corp. in Gaithersburg - made it clear in a visit to Annapolis last week that he can't be 100 percent sure the fire was deliberately set by anyone, since the records aren't that specific.
Much like a detective, he
just pieced together the clues.