Skip to main content

Discover Annapolis History, and More in Maryland's Capital


(Boats docked on Spa Creek in Eastport Annapolis with the Naval Academy in the background.
Courtesy: Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County)

Annapolis, which is the capital city of Maryland, is safe, walkable, historic and picturesque.  Situated on the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the Severn River, it forms part of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area and, as such, is convenient for those who want to visit either place, with Annapolis as their home base.

I recently visited the area for a short stay, during which time I was able to tour the the Museum of Historic Annapolis, the Maryland State House, the William Paca House and Garden, and the world renowned United States Naval Academy.

Visiting the Museum of Historic Annapolis

Photo 2(The Museum of Historic Annapolis)

Guests can start their history tours with the Museum of Historic Annapolis located at 99 Main Street, where three floors of exhibits await to share the story of the people who shaped it, from the arrival of new immigrants, to the expansion of the Naval Academy and the development of new neighborhoods.

The museum also tells the story of segregation in the area. Guests will learn about John T. Maynard, a free black man who earned a living as a waiter at the City Hotel and became a prominent community leader. Maynard served as a trustee of the Stanton School on Washington Street and also as a church leader at mount Moriah A.M.E. Church, which dates back to the 1870s and now serves as the Banneker-Douglass Museum.  Guests will also learn about the Green Book, which listed places where African American travelers were welcome, like Carr's Beach, an entertainment and music venue that hosted the likes of such renowned entertainers of the day like Little Richard, Sara Vaughan, Chuck Berry, Ike and Tina Turner, The Temptations, Billie Holiday and more.

Photo 3
(Carr's Beachhosted a litany of talented entertainers)

Knowledgeable staff at the Museum of Historic Annapolis will also be happy to answer any questions about additional historic sites, all located within a short walk from the museum, to help you make the most of your time in Annapolis.

Touring the Home of a Man Who Signed the Declaration of Independence

At the William Paca House and Garden I met up with a lovely tour guide/volunteer who escorted me around the property and pointed out various areas of interest relating to the gentleman who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Photo 4
(A view of the William Paca House from the Garden)

William Paca was a member of the Maryland Senate from 1776-1777 and 1778-1780. He became Chief Justice of Maryland in 1782 and seven years later was elected Governor of the State. He was later appointed by George Washington as Chief Justice of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland--a position he held until his untimely death at age 59.

His five-part Georgian Mansion was built in the 1760s and later was acquired by the Annapolis Hotel Corporation.  Renamed the Carvel Hall Hotel, it debuted in 1901 with 200 rooms. By the mid-1960s, developers were eyeing up the property for mixed-use development until Historic Annapolis, headed up by Anne St. Clair Wright and other local preservationists, stepped in to save the property and restore it to its original splendor using historical artwork and archeological excavations. Since then it has been recognized as one of the finest 18th-century homes in the country. In 1971, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo 5(Correspondence was likely written in this room)

Photo 6(The attractive dining room of the Paca house)

Photo 7(A kitchen area where game, fish and other foods were prepared)

The elegant and peaceful two-acre garden contains "rooms," known as parterres, where guests can walk among the roses, flowers, hollies and boxwoods on their way to the fish-shaped pond and the two-story summer house which is rented out for events and celebrations.
Photo 8
(The summerhouse at the rear of the garden is rented out today for celebrations and other events)

Visitors should note that guided tours take place on the hour and half hour and take between 45-50 minutes. The William Paca House and Garden is located at 186 Prince George Street. Admission fee is $5 for a self-guided tour of the garden and $12 for a guided tour of the house. It is a Blue Star Museum, offering free admission on select dates to the nation's active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve. Learn more at the website here.
Take a Free Tour of the Maryland State House
Photo 9
(Maryland Avenue, Annapolis, with State House in the background.  Courtesy Visit Annapolis and Anne Arundel County)

Next up was the Maryland State House, the oldest state house in America in continuous legislative use and where the Maryland General Assembly meets three months out of the year.

Photo 10

The free, self-guided tour takes visitors from the 18th to the 21st century, beginning in the Archive Room where they can get the lay of the land, so to speak, with brochures and other helpful information.

Photo 11(The lobby of the State House)
The dome was added between 1785 and 1794, is the largest wooden dome in America and was crafted without nails.

It was in the State House that George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in 1783. This notable speech is considered by historians to be the fourth most important document in American history, setting the precedent of the military being under civilian authority. Guests can find the speech in a display case in the Senate chambers. In between the chambers, in the so-called "stairwell room," visitors will see a silhouette of a person ascending the stairs to the second floor gallery.  That person is Molly Rideout, the eldest daughter of Maryland governor Samuel Ogle and recorder of Washington's resignation. At the time, females were not permitted on the Senate floor.
Photo 12(Molly Rideout ascends the steps to record proceedings)
The thoughtful layout of the State House ensures that guests will know they've left the 18th century when they cross a black band on the floor. Built between 1902 and 1905, the new part is called the Annex. It's here where the Maryland legislature meets for its 90-day session starting the first Wednesday in January.

Guests will see skylights in both chambers crafted by the talented Louis Comfort Tiffany.

In the Senate chamber, they'll encounter portraits of Maryland's four Declaration of Independence signers: Charles Carroll, William Paca, Thomas Stone and Samuel Chase, along with one of Verda Welcome, the first African American woman to become a Maryland Senator.
Photo 13(Maryland's Senate Chamber)
In the House of Delegates chamber, guests will see former speakers of the House arranged in chronological order.
Photo 14(Maryland's House Chamber)
It's also important to note that the Maryland State House was the Capitol of the United States from November 1783-August 1784 and was America's first peace time capitol. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960, the first State House in the nation to acquire that status.

Photo 15(This wall tells the stories of the Heroes of the Revolution, including Catherine Hoof Green, the only female pictured. She ran The Maryland Gazette after her husband's death)

The State House is open every day from 8:30-5:00 p.m., except for Christmas and New Year's Day.
Touring the Naval Academy
Photo 16
A tour of the United States Naval Academy is a must during any visit to Annapolis. It's quite interesting to learn about what a rigorous program these young women and men follow in order to be a part of the over 4,400 students registered here.

While on the tour, I learned many surprising facts. Did you know that the United States government covers the tuition of all students and that the Academy only accepts 8.1 percent of those who apply? In return, these individuals must prove themselves worthy every step of the way.

The Naval Academy will also accept those who cannot swim. "They'll teach you, but you'll have to prove yourself," said our tour guide, explaining that, in order to pass the naval swimming test, Plebes (what freshmen are called) are expected to jump into water wearing overalls and tread water for two minutes, then be able to swim more than 54 yards in four minutes without touching the sides or bottom of the pool before exiting from the deep end without assistance. See that extremely tall diving board? "Plebes are expected to walk off it with their hands crossed over their chests with their khakis on," explained our tour guide.
Photo 17
(The Olympic-sized swimming pool in the Naval Academy training center)
Another interesting fact I learned while on the tour is that Bancroft Hall is the largest dormitory in the world and, upon acceptance, students forfeit all of their personal electronics.
Photo 18
Bancroft Hall was named after Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft, who founded the school in 1845. When Plebes enter the hall, everything for everyday life is provided, from cobblers for shoes, to tailors for clothes, salons for haircuts, stores for everyday necessities and banks for financial transactions.
During the tour, we also learned that H. Ross Perot, who passed in 2019, was a student at the Academy and quietly supported the school on the stipulation that his name not be placed on any of the buildings. Doing good things without recognition--more people should follow his example.
In the photo below is the beautiful interdenominational chapel built in 1904. It seats approximately 2,500.  A window, which appears above the altar, shows Christ Walking upon The Water and was designed by Tiffany Studios
Photo 19(The Naval Academy Chapel built in 1904)

The tour also took us to Dahlgren Hall, named for Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren, inventor of naval guns and Civil War leader. It's the site of special events and also serves as a lounge for the midshipmen. Shown prominently in the photo is a full-sized replica of the Wright brothers 1911 Navy B-1 airplane.
Photo 20(Dahlgren Hall serves as a lounge for midshipmen and their visitors)
Another part of the campus features capacious officers' houses, which span 4,200 square feet and contain seven bedrooms and as many fireplaces. I, for one, would have loved to have taken a peek inside.
Photo 21(Officers' houses span 4,200 square feet and contain seven bedrooms and fireplaces)
These are just a few details from the tour we took that lasted almost two hours. Be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes and a state-issued ID should you decide to go. Costs at this time are $12 for adults, $11 for seniors and $10 for children.
Get Your Shop On
There's no dearth of boutique shops, art galleries and restaurants in Annapolis. Antique shops, in particular, are plentiful. Below are a few shots of the merchandise that I found interesting, particularly the photo of the tour guides which dates back to the 1950s. "They all came back to identify themselves," said the shopkeeper.
Photo 22
(Silk Road Antiques located at 53 Maryland Ave)
We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn located conveniently within three blocks of the State House and within striking distance of places to eat and drink. Our room was spacious, with a safe for valuables, comfortable beds and a Keurig.
Photo 27(The Capital Hotel)
For a more boutique-like experience, there is the Capital Hotel, a thoughtfully restored building located on State Circle in the Historic District, which is thought to be between 200 and 300 year's old. It is comprised of six quiet private rooms with great views.
Photo 28(Two of the six rooms located at the Capital Hotel)
Photo 29
Visitors who stay can take advantage of the onsite restaurant and bar called the Parley Room. Guests have the opportunity to dine inside, or al fresco on the patio.
Photo 30
(The Parley Room)

Well this pretty much sums up our latest experience in Annapolis. For the record, we stayed about a day and a half. There's so much more to do in the city, from food tours, to Segway tours, haunted tours and more, all of which I can recommend, having done all those years before this visit. This time I thought it best to learn more about the history of the area and I have to say we covered quite a bit of ground in a short amount of time.


Images (30)
  • Photo 1
  • Photo 2
  • Photo 3
  • Photo 4
  • Photo 5
  • Photo 6
  • Photo 7
  • Photo 8
  • Photo 9
  • Photo 10
  • Photo 11
  • Photo 12
  • Photo 13
  • Photo 14
  • Photo 15
  • Photo 16
  • Photo 17
  • Photo 18
  • Photo 19
  • Photo 20
  • Photo 21
  • Photo 22
  • Photo 23
  • Photo 24a
  • Photo 25
  • Photo 26
  • Photo 27
  • Photo 28
  • Photo 29
  • Photo 30


Add Comment

Comments (0)

Link copied to your clipboard.