Annapolis As It Was, In Words And Pictures

October 03, 1991|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff writer

Marion E. Warren made his first photographs of Annapolis 44 years ago, before the town was shaken from sleep by the rumble of commuter traffic and the clatter of tourists.

At 71 he's still at it. He acknowledges that the task has become more difficult. He'll say that familiarity with a place can grow like a cataract over the photographer'seye. One does have to work a bit harder to find something fresh.

The newest book by Warren and his wife, Mary, has a few new viewsset side-by-side with old ones. Witness in the pages of "Annapolis Adventure -- Present and Past" how the city has changed, how it has remained the same.

An 1890 photograph looking north on Main Street is placed next to a contemporary view of the same scene. The State House dome and St. Anne's Church steeple provide the landmarks common toboth. But the old James Hopkins Groceries is replaced by the Annapolis Federal Savings Bank, wooden barrels at the curb are replaced by cars, and the turn-of-the-century street is not rigged like a clipper ship with utility wires.

The pictures in the paperback book are accompanied by brief paragraphs, some written by Mary, some lifted fromWilliam O. Stevens' book "Annapolis: Anne Arundel's Town," publishedin 1937. Stevens wrote that "In 1900, Annapolis was still a sleepy, Southern town, not too spic-and-span around the curbs and backyards, and rather weak on paint and repairs. The streets were still cobbly, with very rough and edgy cobbles. . . . There was no soda water fountain."

The new book is a combination of two earlier books by the Warren family. In 1970, Warren and his wife produced "Annapolis Adventure," a book of contemporary photographs, which sold 9,000 copies in paperback, 1,000 in hardcover.

Over the past few years, the Warrens, who moved to Annapolis from Virginia in 1947, have been asked many times if they might re-issue that book or produce a new one. The result is the new "Annapolis Adventure," with some photographs from the 1970 book, some new pictures and antique photographs published before in "The Train's Done Been and Gone," by Warren and his daughter, MameWarren.

Mame Warren, curator of photography at the State Archivesin Annapolis, last year published a book of her own called "Then Again," a words and picture record of life in Annapolis between 1920 and1960. The book became the basis of an oral-history play performed last fall at St. John's College. She and her father have collaborated on four books: "The Train's Done Been and Gone;" "Everybody Works but John Paul Jones," a book about the Naval Academy; "BALTIMORE: When She Was What She Used to Be"; and "Maryland Time Exposures."

Asked to described the city he has so often photographed, Warren, a Montana native, said "Unlike Williamsburg (Va.), which is a total recreation,this is a living city in history. The people live there and make a living there. At times there's been some conflict between these, between the interests of economy and history, daily lives and history."

A good example, he said, is the controversy over construction of an 80-foot bridge to replace the old drawbridge across the Severn River leading into the city's historic district. Opponents of the state bridge plans say the big bridge is out of character with the historic district to which it leads and would ruin a scenic view of the Naval Academy and the city beyond.

Mary Warren says the view of Annapolis from the approach to the old bridge is her favorite view of the city.She says she's working full time now on the campaign to stop construction of the tall bridge.

"It's all of Annapolis in one view," Mary Warren said. "It'll be lost forever if the state highway plans go through."

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