Annapolis historic panel asks restaurateur to scrap carving

August 08, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Admiral Earl St. Vincent defeated the Spanish fleet, overcame a mutinous crew and fought corruption in the boatyards. But last month, the 18th century English seaman met his match: the Annapolis Historic District Commission.

The commission insisted that Virgin Island businessman Charles Tobias nix a proposal to erect a 12-foot wooden figure of the admiral outside a restaurant Mr. Tobias plans to open beside the Annapolis Marriott Waterfront next month.

Tomorrow the commission -- the guardian of downtown Annapolis' historic sensibilities -- will vote on the design proposal for Pusser's Restaurant.

To comply with the commission's suggestions, Annapolis architect Craig Purcell has eliminated the figurehead, covered white lattice with vines and lowered a middle section with the establishment's name.

"The applicant has reponded to the commission concerns," said Donna Hole, an adviser to the commission. "I think I would recommend it."

For Mr. Tobias, the design approval process has been an enlightening, if somewhat frustrating, introduction to Annapolis.

The Canada native and U.S. citizen considers himself to have more than a passing knowledge of history.

He serves on the board of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England; collects maritime antiquities; and plans to decorate his Annapolis restaurant with $150,000 worth of maritime memorabilia.

The carved wooden figure of Admiral St. Vincent was to have stood outside the entrance overlooking Ego Alley, the waterfront promenade where yachtsmen moor their vessels and power boaters show off their skills and crafts.

The figurehead had once decorated the bow of an 18th century man-of-war, and Mr. Tobias believed it would fit nicely with Annapolis' maritime heritage.

But the Historic District Commission had other ideas. After taking a look at the drawings, Annapolis preservationists complained that the figurehead looked "cartoonish."

Ms. Hole was more diplomatic. "We felt something like that created a certain amount of visual clutter," she said.

If the commission approves the revised plans as expected tomorrow, Mr. Tobias says he will open Pusser's Sept. 19.

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