At the top of Main Street, just before you hit Church Circle, lies a hidden gem. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. If I didn’t have a craving for a green tea Frappuccino light a while back, I would have easily walked right on by. Use the Maryland Inn as a marker. In fact, go in while you’re there. Down by the Inn’s bar is an Historic Inns of Annapolis plaque that highlights the Treaty of Paris, which if you missed that lesson at school, was signed in 1783 and was the agreement between the United States and Great Britain that ended the Revolutionary War and sealed America’s independence.
It was signed in France and ratified by George Washington at the State House, right here in Annapolis. At the time, Annapolis was our nation's Capital. Following the signing of the document, three of the signers who helped negotiate the treaty – John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and John Jay – celebrated there.
But that may have already been on your Annapolis history itinerary. From outside, there’s a staircase that leads up to the Inn and one down that guides you into Starbucks. Yup. That’s it. That’s the hidden gem.
I’ve been to Starbucks all across the country, but haven’t come across anything like this one. I feel a warm sense of history every time I walk in. Starbucks? History? Right, right – two words that don’t usually go together.
Take the stairs to the cellar where stone walls and exposed brick take a well-known coffee chain into the past. It’s a warm, quaint, secluded place with comfortable chairs, a leather couch, and subdued lighting. A perfect place to relax and take in your surroundings.
In the late 1700’s, this was part of The King of France Tavern (named after King Louis the XVI, a French ally during the Revolutionary War). In the 1970’s, the tavern became a jazz club where the likes of Earl “Fatha” Hines and Charlie Byrd once played. Historical memorabilia reflect upon the jazz club it once was. There’s a drum, a sax, photos of jazz musicians and newspaper clippings adorning the walls.
There are two sitting areas, but what always gets me is in the far corner to the right, wrought iron bars that block entrance into the past. Once a wine cellar, a sign says a "bricked-in wall that is purported to lead to an underground tunnel to the Maryland State House.” “Purported” allows leeway to the lore and one legend says that it was the stable where George Washington would park his horse and take the tunnel to the State House. Another says that the tunnel existed as an escape route for the Continental Congress if Annapolis were to be attacked.
The juxtaposition of the popular chain overlaying history may seem strange, but Starbucks is certainly respectful to the building’s history. It’s a great location with an attentive and friendly staff. And just the thought of a secret tunnel provides more flavor than you can imagine.