The City Commissioners were established in 1797 (Ordinance 14) and were responsible for the management of street paving, leveling, repairing, opening and closing; the care of wells and pumps; and the establishment of sewers and property boundaries. The complex work of these City Commissioners was often in conjunction with other municipal, county, and state agencies. The authority for the opening, extension, and closing of streets was generally sought in the state legislature with the City Commissioners responsible for the practical execution of the work. The City Commissioners funded their work in a variety of ways including special assessments from affected property owners, special appropriations from municipal government, and loans.
The Commissioners were united with the Commissioners of Health from 1809 to 1820. Then came under the Board of Port Wardens from 1820 to 1850 and 1861 to 1863. From approximately 1807 to 1861 the Superintendent of Streets and Pumps was under the direction of the Commissioners. However, in 1866 the Superintendent became the Commissioner for Opening Streets (RG. 58).
The care of streets was haphazard, experimental and according to most historians, largely unsuccessful in providing adequate maintenance. This program did represent, however, the largest municipal expenditure in the early years. The work of the Baltimore City Commissioners was absorbed under the new charter of 1898 by the Department of Public Improvements and Department of Review and Assessments.
For further information about this agency see the published annual reports, 1824-1899, which are available in the Department of Legislative Reference Library. Two books which also include information on the work of the Commissioners are Jacob H. Hollander, The Financial History of Baltimore (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1899) and Gary Lawson Browne, Baltimore and the Nation, 1789-1861 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980).