If you have ever walked in Downtown Annapolis, there is a good chance you passed the Government House. Situated in the center of historic Annapolis, adjacent to the State House, is Government House, the official residence of the governor of Maryland. Currently living in the home are Governor Larry Hogan and First Lady Yumi Hogan.
Interestingly enough, this home was not the first official governor’s residence in Maryland. In 1742, Governor Thomas Bladen was authorized by the General Assembly to purchase land and begin construction on a residence. Soaring costs caused an ongoing dispute between the governor and the legislature which stalled progress and led to the building being referred to as "Bladen’s Folly." It remained empty and unfinished for many years until it was ceded to the newly chartered St. John’s College in 1784. The building was named McDowell Hall after the school’s first president and remains on the school’s campus today!
The continued search for a residence for the governor led to the leasing of Jennings House by Governor Horatio Sharpe. That house was later purchased in 1769 and used as the governor’s residence until 1866 when it was sold to the United States Naval Academy and it has since been torn down.
The building of the current Government House began in 1868 and was completed in 1869 in the style of a Victorian mansion and has been home to Maryland governors and their families ever since. Governor Oden Bowie and his family were its first residents. In the Entrance Hall, there is a painting by Joseph Sheppard which depicts the original style of the house. This painting served as the inspiration for a party in 2018 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the home. By 1935, the Government House was completely remodeled to reflect the style of an 18th-century Georgian country house, allowing it to better blend in with the historic buildings built in the Golden Age of Annapolis prior to the American Revolution.
There are 54 rooms within the Government House, which includes residential rooms for the governor’s family, seven public rooms, and administrative offices. The seven public rooms are the Entrance Hall, Victorian Parlor, State Dining Room, Federal Reception Room, Drawing Room, Empire Parlor, and the Conservatory.
Within these beautiful rooms, you will find treasures of Maryland History, including portraits of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale and of Maryland’s namesake, Queen Henrietta Maria, by Florence MacKubin. In the bottom corners of the Peale painting are small drawings of faces, presumably done by Peale’s children whom he trained as artists. You will also find a Kirk Stieff silver service and Potthast Brothers furniture in the State Dining Room, an impressive portrait of Frederick Douglass by Simmie Knox in the Drawing Room and a John Fessler tall clock in the Federal Reception Room. Much more than a residence, Government House is at the heart of Maryland history and the furnishings, paintings and other special items within tell the story of Maryland’s rich historical past.
Tours are available of the Government House and are given on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10:30am – 12:00 noon, by appointment only. To schedule a tour, please call 410-974-3531 or write to:
Government House State Circle Annapolis, MD 21401
Videography and photos courtesy of Patrick McNamara of Drawn to the Image.