One of my favorite things in Annapolis is the Maryland State House. It was built on the highest point of land so from almost every vantage point you get a glimpse of the beautiful dome. It’s the largest all-wooden dome in North America, built of cypress beams held together by wooden pegs instead of nails. The cornerstone of the State House was laid in 1772 and by 1779 the Maryland General Assembly began meeting there and still meets there today, making this the longest continuously used legislative building in the country.
The General Assembly consists of the Senate and House of Delegates. Although I have visited the State House many times, it was a special trip to walk through with long time Senator John Astle, who also served as a delegate. Although recently retired, I was quite struck by his continued passion for the people of Maryland and his gratefulness for being a part of the state legislature. He shared with me that Maryland has a part-time legislature that meets yearly for a 90-day session that begins in January and ends in April.
Old Senate Chamber
Senator Astle explained that not only do they consider an incredible number of bills each year, but they also work diligently to pass a budget. He encourages all of us to experience state government in action by coming and listening to the legislative process by taking a seat in one of the public galleries. You can learn more about the Maryland General Assembly and the legislative process online.
Aside from the legislative chambers, the State House serves as the office of the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor, a very convenient location to Government House, the official residence of the governor, that is just across the street.
There have been many changes to the building over the years, most notably, the addition of the annex in the early 1900s which currently houses the Senate and House of Delegates Chambers. The Old Senate and Old House of Delegates Chambers from the 18th-century side of the building are now used to celebrate the history of Maryland and served as our nation’s capital from 1783-1784. It was during this time that George Washington came to resign his commission as the Commander of Chief of the Continental Army. Displayed in the lobby is the actual speech, written by George Washington, that he read on December 23, 1783, where he voluntarily stepped down from power and set the course for the type of government that we have today, one under civilian authority and not under military control.
This historically significant building serves many functions, often all at one time. On any given day, the Maryland State House can be bustling with legislators, lobbyists, state employees, the governor, tourists, and even school children on field trips. It is a must-see for everyone, whether you are a long-time resident or a day-tripper, you don’t want to miss a visit to the Maryland State House. It’s free and open to the public, you only need a government-issued ID to visit.
Conveniently located in the lobby is an informative brochure that helps you take a self-guided tour. Throughout the State House, there are informational kiosks and interactive touch screens to enhance your experience, as well as a short video in the Old Stairwell Room that tells the story of George Washington’s resignation and its significance to us today.
For more info about visiting the State House, visit them online here.
Photography and videography courtesy of Patrick McNamara of Drawn to the Image