300 Candles for Maryland's capital

September 14, 1994

Think about lighting 300 candles on a cake -- or perhaps even hundreds more, because this month's 300th anniversary of Annapolis' designation as Maryland's capital has to be put into historical perspective by recalling the city's even more distant past.

Its first residents were Native Americans. After the first recorded Caucasian saw the surrounding fair hills and blue waters of the Severn in 1608, settlers from Virginia and Europe began arriving in greater number.

By 1694, Annapolis -- first known as "Town-Land at Proctors" and later as "Town and Port of Ann-Arundel" -- was deemed to have so much potential because of its central location that Maryland's colonial government moved its capital there from St. Mary's.

Even by Colonial standards, though, Annapolis was not much to write home about.

"There are about forty dwelling houses in it, seven or eight of which can afford good lodging or accommodations for strangers," a chronicler wrote about 1700.

"There are also a State House and a free school, built of brick, which make a great show among a parcel of wooden houses, and the foundation of a church is laid, the only brick church in Maryland."

The state capital's rich history will be recalled Friday, when Annapolis kicks off a year-long tercentenary celebration. The opening day event, appropriately, will be the arrival of the Maryland Dove at the City Dock from St. Mary's City. Afterward, a historical reenactment of the capital's transfer will be performed.

The parades, concerts and exhibits of the kick-off events will last through Sept. 25, with more celebrations to follow throughout the year.

To enable Annapolitans and visitors to make the most of the city's attractions, a number of museums and historical groups have banded together to offer discounts. They are selling $1 buttons, which will entitle visitors to reduced admission fees at participating institutions.

It's a great idea. We hope it catches on and leads to the creation of a permanent Anne Arundel Museum Consortium that will offer cooperative ticket plans.

Cultural institutions in other Maryland cities -- Baltimore and Frederick, for example -- have successfully established ticket plans and discovered that the number of visitors at all institutions increases as a result.

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