Figure of admiral scrapped

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.

"It was not part of Annapolis' maritime tradition," she added, noting that the figurehead came from a British ship commissioned in 1815 -- more than 30 years after Annapolis was freed from English rule.

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

The restaurant will be in what is now Juan Alfredo's Virgin Island Waterfront Cafe. Although interior work already has started, Juan Alfredo's remains open.

Mr. Tobias has been in the restaurant business for 15 years and said he has wanted to come to Annapolis for a number of years, but did have the means or location until last year.

The Annapolis restaurant will be Mr. Tobias' ninth Pusser's, but his first in the United States.

It will include arches and flags that are a standard feature in Tobias' restaurants in Germany, the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands. But the design has been adapted to the Annapolis area.

The colors have been toned down, and Mr. Purcell said he attempted to incorporate design elements that correspond to features at the Naval Academy. Inside, Mr. Tobias plans to display a number of ship models, including an 8-foot model of the USS Constitution. He has commissioned paintings from a prominent maritime artist and plans to display photographs of Annapolis' maritime history.

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