Visit Annapolis: Historic Annapolis
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WNEW) — Think about this: Every founding father walked on the streets of Annapolis, in many places the same street surface you walk on today. The history runs deep here, and you can dive in as far as you want.
Sitting in the basement of a home once owned by an original signer of the Declaration of Independence, Glenn Campbell, senior historian for Historic Annapolis, tells me just how strong the revolutionary force runs in this town.
“There are actually four signers from the state of Maryland and all four of them had houses in Annapolis,” Campbell says. “They didn’t all live here in 1776, one of them moved in here a little bit after that time. But we are the only city that has surviving houses of all its state signers in one location.”
Most cities would rest on those laurels, but for Annapolis the chief moment in history isn’t a signing but rather a resigning.
“It was while Congress was meeting here in December of 1783 that General George Washington came to appear before them and to resign his commission as commander in chief of continental forces and turn that authority to lead the army back over to Congress,” Campbell says.
Honing into these moments is the specialty of Annapolis. From trolley tours, to themed walking tours, to dissecting a historic house, you have the ability to delve into the fine grain of the Revolutionary Era.
“There are a lot of great examples of what’s called Georgian architecture here in Annapolis,” Campbell says. “The William Paca house is certainly one of them, there’s the Hammond-Harwood House, the Chase-Lloyd House, the James Bryce House, the list goes on and on. Some of them are open as museum sites, some of them are owned by individuals and still run as private homes — and you can see lots of them just walking the streets.”
Each of these buildings offer a snapshot into what life was like as our nation came into existence. And it all could have easily enough been lost to the ages.
“Annapolis is the way it is, not because of accident, but because of conscious choices people made, and so we’re trying to let people know about that,” says Campbell. “If they like Annapolis, if they like what they see if they like what they can do here … it’s here because of a reason.”
Historic Annapolis started in 1952 with the mission of preserving the largest collection of Georgian architecture in America. And in the last 60 years it’s mission has shifted toward education, as evidenced at the William Paca House.
“A tour of the Paca house would take about 45-50 minutes for a guided tour of the house, we have volunteer guides who lead people through the house and then you see the garden on your own,” Cambell says the two-acre garden is one part of the grounds that visitors gravitate towards.
The garden was reconstructed based on archeological evidence and it’s appearance in the background of a portrait of Paca. Dodging in and out of the hedges gives you an idea of the opulence that Paca must have enjoyed. But that opulence came at a price.
“People will get a sense of life in an elite house, not only for members of the family but also the enslaved members of the household staff,” says Campbell. “They were the people who made the comfortable lifestyle that William Paca and his wife and children enjoyed possible.”
It’s a history on display in the rooms of the house where slaves worked, like the kitchen. Campbell says they’ve been able to identify some of those people, and in the process tell a piece of their story.
Aside from the Paca House, there’s also the Hammond-Harwood House, which Campbell says boasts an impressive collection of 18th century antiques. And the Chase Lloyd House is renowned for its interior architecture — the house is still a working home so only the first floor is open to visitors.
Treat these historic homes as time capsules communicating a way of life that’s now ancient, but important. And even if you’re not into history, you may just find a story-line that speaks to you.
For more, visit VisitAnnapolis.org.