An anniversary looming for Annapolis

March 17, 1994

We got a bit of a chuckle when Gov. William Donald Schaefer recently announced a statewide celebration of the 300th anniversary of Annapolis as the capital of Maryland.

"Annapolis," the governor remarked, "is a special city. It's authentic. . . not like Williamsburg."

Well, it may interest Governor Schaefer to know that Annapolis nearly was Williamsburg. A little-known fact is that Maryland's historic capital was John D. Rockefeller's first restoration choice. He ended up doing a large-scale restoration in Virginia instead, in part because the Annapolis Chamber of Commerce felt that wholesale historic preservation would lead to business dislocation and to too many stringent development controls.

This story and more will be recalled this fall when Annapolis kicks off a year-long bash to celebrate its three centuries as Maryland's capital.

The state's original capital was St. Mary's City, but that Southern Maryland town was regarded as too distant and too insignificant to merit the distinction -- "a mere landing-place for the trade in its own immediate neighborhood," according to one chronicle.

In fact, Annapolis -- first known as the "Town at Proctors" and then as "Anne Arundel Town" -- wasn't all that big when it became the state capital in 1694. But it had one overriding advantage: It happened to be the home of the tax collector.

St. Mary's tried to fight the move. In the end, however, politicians ruled that "the citty of St. Maries is very unequally rankt with London, Boston, Port Royall, &c." and ordered the capital relocated to Annapolis.

The tricentennial festivities will start in Annapolis Sept. 16 with a 10-day celebration of colonial life. They will continue through Oct. 10, 1995, the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Naval Academy.

"This will be a great opportunity for Marylanders and visitors. . . to see what we have to offer," the governor said at a recent press conference.

The Annapolis birthday celebration is a good way to make the entire state better known in the rest of the country and overseas. Not only is this well-preserved capital city a world-class tourist draw -- a travel publication of National Geographic plans to feature it again this spring -- but it is also home to several important Maryland and federal institutions. Moreover, Annapolis was once the U.S. capital and four signers of the Declaration of Independence lived there. That is history worth celebrating.

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