Are you a history buff? If so, you’ve come to the right place! As our nation’s first peacetime capital, you could say our nation took its first breath in Annapolis when the Treaty of Paris was ratified here – officially ending the Revolutionary War. And that's just the beginning!
Welcome to Annapolis – A Museum without Walls with more 18th-century brick buildings than any other city of comparable size in the nation. If you’ve driven into town, park your car at Gotts Court Garage. It’s right behind the 26 West Street Visitors Center. Be sure to stop in and talk with our information specialists. They’ll provide you with maps and a host of ideas for your journey.
William Paca House and Garden
Before serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress, William Paca and three other Marylanders risked their lives and fortunes by signing the Declaration of Independence. Paca later went on to serve as governor of Maryland. A guided tour of his national historic landmark home on Prince George Street provides an insight into the man and the issues of his day. Be sure to ask about the Paca House’s stint as the front entrance to the popular Carvel Hall Hotel from the early 1900s to the early 1960s and the archaeological dig that led to the reconstruction of Paca’s 18th-century pleasure garden.
As you’re leaving the William Paca House, be sure to grab a Historic Markers brochure. It will come in handy during the rest of your visit. We’ll tell you how as you read along!
If you liked William Paca’s five-part Georgian mansion, you’ll no doubt appreciate architect William Buckland’s masterpiece, the Hammond-Harwood House. Located down the street and around the corner from the Paca House on Maryland Avenue, the home at 19 Maryland Avenue is a five-part Anglo-Palladian mansion that features some of the best woodcarving and plasterwork in America. Legend has it that Thomas Jefferson called the front entrance to the home the most beautiful doorway in America. Inside, the museum showcases the finest collection of colonial furniture in Maryland, including several pieces by 18th century master craftsman and cabinetmaker John Shaw. The walls are adorned with the several images by portrait painter Charles Willson Peale, one of the 18th century’s premier painters.
Across the street from the Hammond-Harwood House is another magnificent piece of colonial architecture designed by architect William Buckland, the Chase-Lloyd House. The home is named after its first owner, Samuel Chase, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, supreme court justice and friend of William Paca. The house is also named after the wealthy plantation-owning Lloyd family who lived in the house for generations after Edward Lloyd IV bought the half-finished home from Samuel Chase. The home was willed to Hester Anne Chase Rideout, a descendent of Samuel Chase. In her 1886 will, Rideout established the house as a refuge where elderly women “may find a retreat from the vicissitudes of life.” The first floor of the home is open to the public on Tuesdays and Fridays from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. If you visit the home, be sure to check out the parlor. Star Spangled Banner signatory Francis Scott Key and Mary Tayloe Lloyd got married in the parlor in 1802.
Time to Eat
History lover that you are, chances are you’ll want to have lunch at a restaurant with some stories to tell. That’s easy to do in Annapolis! Reynolds Tavern, Middleton Tavern, Treaty of Paris Restaurant and 33 West Street – home of today’s Rams Head Tavern – are just as popular with 21st century travelers as they were in the 1700s.
Maryland State House
As you learned this morning, Annapolis was a major player in Colonial America – economically, socially and politically. A visit to the Maryland State House carries this message home in a powerful way.
The Maryland State House is the oldest State House in continuous legislative use in the nation. It’s also the only State House that has served as our nation’s Capitol. That’s right! Annapolis was our nation’s first peacetime capital! The Continental Congress met in the Old Senate Chamber from November 26, 1783 to August 13, 1784. During that time, George Washington came before the Continental Congress and resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. It was here that the Treaty of Paris was ratified, officially ending the Revolutionary War. During a self-guided tour, you’ll learn about the birth of a nation that took place here and see the House and Senate Chambers where Maryland lawmakers still meet annually from January to April in a 90-day legislative session.
St. John's College
After your self-guided tour of the Maryland State House, take the time to stroll the grounds of nearby St. John’s College. The third oldest college in the United States was established in 1696 as King Williams School, the Maryland colony’s “free” school. In 1789, the former governor’s mansion, McDowell Hall was completed and began serving as the foundation for the college. It’s now one of the oldest academic buildings in continuous use in the country. In 1791, President George Washington visited St. John’s College, expressing “much satisfaction at the appearance of this rising seminary.” In 1814, famous St. John’s alumnus Francis Scott Key penned the Stars Spangled Banner.
Perhaps one of the biggest dates that’s etched into the minds of present-day and former St. John’s College students alike is 1984, the year of the inaugural Annapolis Cup croquet match between St. John’s College and the U.S. Naval Academy. Since that time, St. John’s has emerged the winner more times than not! This beloved tradition brings thousands of individuals to the front lawn of the college’s McDowell Hall each year in a Gatsby-style celebration.
Dinner on the Town
You’ve had a full day! How does a relaxing dinner sound? Choose from among dozens of restaurants serving up nature’s bounty and international favorites in settings from simple to sublime.
If you want your day to be filled with history from beginning to end, you may want to start your day with breakfast at Treaty of Paris Restaurant or with a patriotic Pledge of Allegiance at Chick and Ruth’s Delly. Then, it’s off to the U.S. Naval Academy. Gate 1 is the main visitor gate, but the John Barry Gate is just as easy – and it will take you past the John Barry memorial. Barry received his commission in the navy from George Washington himself!
Tours of the “Yard” depart from the Naval Academy’s Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center seven days a week. They’re a great introduction to the institution that was founded as the Naval School in 1845 by Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft on the grounds of the former Army post Fort Severn in Annapolis.
If you visit the Naval Academy during the academic year, you may want to time your tour to coincide with noon formation. Weather permitting, all of the mid-shipmen line up in formation before heading into the largest dormitory in the world for lunch. It’s a beautiful spectacle – complete with color guard and the navy band performing.
After the official tour, be sure to check out the Naval Academy Museum, home to one of the world’s finest collections of warship models from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The Rogers Ship Model Collection is another not-to-be-missed display. It includes 108 ship and boat models of the sailing ship era dating from 1650 to 1850.
Time for Lunch
Since you’re immersing yourself in all things Naval Academy, may we suggest the Alley for lunch? Named for the bowling alley that was originally located in the lower level of the Naval Academy Club, The Alley restaurant offers casual to fine dining in a warm and inviting atmosphere.
The legendary Drydock Restaurant is another dining option at the Naval Academy. Located in Dahlgren Hall, it’s a great place for midshipmen sightings. Here, visitors can mingle with midshipmen and officers while enjoying a menu of “made to order” deli-style sandwiches, grilled items and Drydock Pizza.
If you exit Gate 3 of the Naval Academy when lunch is through, be sure to grab a cup of coffee to go at 1845 Coffee. Housed in the oldest standing building on the Yard (the former gate house building), 1845 sells Ceremony coffee to go – along with fresh baked goods from the Harvest Bread Company.
Now’s the perfect time to put the Historic Marker brochure you picked up yesterday to good use. Our wish for you is a leisurely afternoon walking through the streets of downtown historic Annapolis enjoying the four centuries of architectural history on display.
You’ll notice that many buildings are adorned with the color-coded markers. The Historic Annapolis Inc. brochure outlines what each of the colors stands for. So, you can have an architectural field day as you make your way along the streets and alleyways of Annapolis. You won’t have look far to find a marker. They adorn more than 260 homes and public buildings in downtown Annapolis.
Red markers identify Georgian architecture of the 1700s to the 1820s. This is among the most long-lived styles of American architecture, and it dominated the British colonies for most of the 18th century. Blue markers indicate the Federal style (1780s-1840s). It’s a neoclassical form of architecture that is light and delicate in comparison to the Georgian style. Green markers draw your attention to Greek Revival architecture (1820s-1860s), a popular style for public structures after the War of 1812. Purple designates Victorian with its exterior decoration in brickwork, towers and elaborate cornice brackets. Gray markers identify the vernacular style of the 1830s to 1930s that is often used on the row houses and duplexes of Annapolis. Yellow markers call your attention to 20th Century Distinctive architecture from the 1900s to the 1940s.
Time for Dinner
In the course of your afternoon walkabout, chances are you identified a number of restaurants – perhaps adorned with historic markers – that were calling your name for dinner. Now’s the time to retrace your steps and settle in for a memorable meal. If you’re here on a Wednesday night in the summer, Dinner Under the Stars on the first block of West Street is a perfect choice!
Historic London Town and Gardens
Founded in 1683 as Anne Arundel County's seat, London Town’s heyday lasted about 100 years. The colonial tobacco port town bustled with activity as ships carrying trade goods stopped at the site of an active ferry crossing on the South River. When trade routes changed, the town all but disappeared. Rediscover this once vibrant town as you stroll through the gardens of a 23-acre park, tour the National Historic Landmark William Brown House and the reconstructed Carpenter’s Shop and Lord Mayor’s Tenement. London Town’s woodland garden features towering native trees, an extensive collection of magnolias, camellias, dogwoods, rhododendrons and viburnums, uncommon individual specimens of spring bulbs, woodland wildflowers, and shade-loving perennials.
Galesville Heritage Museum
If you visit in the summer, get to know the locals by stopping by the Galesville Heritage Museum on a Sunday. In addition to hearing stories about the residents, you’ll see exhibits and artifacts that celebrate the unique history of the quiet maritime community.
Hartge Nautical Museum
Stop in the white building on the left as you enter the long-established yacht yard to learn about the boat-building traditions of the Hartge family through exhibits, charts and models. The museum is open weekdays during the summer.
In the nearby village of Shady Side, you’ll experience life as part of a 19th-century waterman’s family and learn how later residents brought their families here year after year to “Our Place” for summer getaways beside the water. The museum is open Sundays in the summer.
Time for Lunch
If you’re hungry, a host of waterfront restaurants beckon. Pirates Cove in Galesville, Ketch 22 in North Beach, Skipper’s Pier in Deale – and others – offer waterfront dining and fresh from the Bay seafood.
Deale Area Historical Society
Before heading home, be sure to visit the Deale Area Historical Society. Located in the restored 19th-century Nutwell Schoolhouse, it features exhibits related to the history of Deale and its residents. The museum is open on Sundays in the summer.
Until Next Time!
Annapolis and Anne Arundel County are brimming with history. It’s impossible to cover it all during a three-day visit! That means you’ll have to come back again! But for now, safe journey home!