Living in an old house can teach you a thing or two about hard work, about grit and tenacity, about being part of a greater and more timeless world. The steward of a historic home has to really love it – the quirkiness, the nooks and crannies, the twists and turns of sharing life with those who lived there before. More than 289 Annapolitans agree. They live or work in buildings they love, immersed in history. Among the many historic properties in Annapolis, 289 historic treasures are identified by color-coded architectural plaques provided by the Historic Annapolis Historic Markers Program.
Each marker is a “blue ribbon” that celebrates the historic significance and architectural style of the individual residential or business property. Displaying a marker demonstrates pride in the property and enthusiasm for the Annapolis preservation community.
The octagonal sign itself is unique to the particular building. The Historic Markers are cast in aluminum and hand painted with gilded trim. A customized brass inset specifies the property’s address, architectural style, date of construction, and sometimes a noteworthy fact about the structure.
In return for a $500 contribution, the owner receives the installed marker, public recognition of preservation stewardship, historic information about the building’s past, assurance that the property complies with preservation district standards, and a one-year Historic Annapolis premier membership. The owner signs an agreement regarding the marker, but no additional restrictions are placed on the building.
For visitors to the Historic District, the markers provide a great way to take a self-guided walk through history and learn about period architecture. Each plaque is color-coded to indicate the structure’s architectural style as described below:
Red: Georgian Architecture (1700-1820)
Georgian architecture is characterized by its symmetry, proportion, and balance, applying mathematical ratios used in Greek and Roman classical architecture. Ornamentation is restrained, and windows are often large and appear in a grid pattern. Georgian style dominated the English colonies for most of the 1700s, when expanding and increasingly prosperous populations sought more fashionable buildings.
Bronze: Georgian Buildings of National Importance (1700-1820)
These buildings are built in the Georgian style and are important on a national level for their architecture and role in the founding of America. The Maryland State House, William Paca House, James Brice House, and are a few excellent examples of Georgian buildings in Annapolis with national importance.
Blue: Federal Architecture (1784-1840)
Federal architecture has a lightness and delicacy in comparison to Georgian buildings. The limited elaborations include the use of the fanlight and accentuated front door, roof-line balustrades, dormers, and keystone lintels above windows with prominent sills.
Green: Greek Revival Architecture (1820-1860)
During and after the War of 1812, American affection for British influence diminished, giving rise to renewed interest in the classical Greek building style. In Annapolis, the Greek Revival style is evident on many domestic structures built during this period that have large square or elongated windows, restrained ornamentation, and entrances with pediments and simple entablature.
Purple: Victorian Era Architecture (1869-1901)
Victorian Era Architecture includes a range of architectural styles that share elaborate massing and details, including French Second Empire, Italianate, Queen Anne, Gothic Revival, and Romanesque. Towers, verandas, decorated brickwork, multi-hued color schemes, elaborate brackets and consoles, and arched or bay windows are this style’s defining features.
Gray: 19th-20th Century Annapolis Vernacular Architecture (1837-1921)
This style reflects local culture and building materials, employing simplified classical, Federal, and Italianate motifs. It is often found in row homes and paired houses. Vernacular Annapolis structures, such as those on Conduit and Market Streets, are ubiquitous throughout the City and contribute significantly to the streetscape and character of the town.
Yellow: 20th Century Distinctive Architecture (1901-1938)
Distinctive architecture of the 20th century includes a variety of styles ranging from Beaux Arts, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, and Craftsman. The American Foursquare is another example of this style common in Maryland during this period.
As of this year, the Historic Annapolis marker program has been around for fifty years. For more information, visit the Historic Markers page on Historic Annapolis' Website. To inquire about joining the Historic Marker Program, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410.990.4513. To see a list of current marker property addresses click here.
All photos courtesy of Ann Powell and Historic Annapolis