County is rich with historic sites

Exploring: From the Maryland State House to the Historical Electronics Museum, Anne Arundel features places straight out of America's past.

May 16, 2004|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Maryland State House in Annapolis is not only the site of the state capital, it was the nation's capital from November 1783 to August 1784. It is the oldest state capital building in the United States in continuous legislative use and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960.

The building's original Senate Chamber was where George Washington resigned his commission and where Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris. Over the years, the building has had several additions and renovations, including a recent restoration of the original wooden dome. The dome was completed in 1797 -- and built without nails because they were scarce after the Revolutionary War. Itslightning rod was designed according to Benjamin Franklin's theories.

The State House is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tours are conducted by State House guides. The building also is a stop on many local historic walking tours, including the Annapolis Ghost Tour, which claims the spirit of Thomas Dance, who fell from the dome during its construction, haunts the historic site.

St. John's College (60 College Ave., Annapolis, 410-263-2371) is the country's third-oldest college. Founded as King William's School, it was one of the first public schools in America and later served as a military hospital during the Civil War. One of its most famous alumni is Francis Scott Key, who penned the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Historic London Town and Gardens (839 Londontown Road, Edgewater, 410-222-1919, is a 23-acre park featuring gardens within gardens.

The park is on the South River in an area that was once the site of the late 17th- and early 18th-century town of London. Archaeologists from the Lost Towns Project continue to excavate the area in search of more of the town's original building sites.

The gardens feature plants that thrive in the wooded tidewater setting, many of which date to Colonial times. On the park grounds is the William Brown House, which was built in the early 1700s and is a National Historic Landmark museum. It is one of two buildings that survive from Colonial London Town.

The building was once the private home of William Brown, a prominent businessman who owned a ferry and inn, but later fell on hard times and lost everything. It was also a tavern and the Anne Arundel County Alms House.

Tours of the house are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.

The Maryland State Archives (350 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, 410-260-6400, www.mdarchives. is the permanent records repository for the state of Maryland, and a favorite location of history buffs and genealogy researchers.

Visitors can look up original state executive, legislative and judicial records; county probate, land and court records; church records; business records; publications and reports of state, county and municipal governments; and special collections of private papers, maps, photographs and newspapers dating from the founding of the colony in 1634 to the 1990s.

The search room is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday. Professional archivists are on duty to assist researchers.

The U.S. Naval Academy, (121 Blake Road, mil) was founded in Annapolis in 1845. The school is home to 4,000 midshipmen, all of whom live in Bancroft Hall, one of the largest dormitories in the world. The academy is open for tours and one stop worth visiting is the chapel where the crypt of John Paul Jones, a naval hero during the Revolutionary War, is located.

The Rams Head Tavern (33 West St., Annapolis, 410- 268-4545, www.ramsheadtavern. com) dates to the late 1700s, when the tavern was known as the Crown and Dial. The tavern is supposedly haunted by a ghost named Amy, who is said to have been a resident of the tavern when it was a brothel, and who died when her bed came crashing through the ceiling one night. Her bedpost is in the Down Bar in the tavern.

George Washington may not have slept at Middleton Tavern (2 Market Space, 410- 263-3323), but he supposedly visited the historic tavern, restaurant and oyster bar, along with other well-known figures of early American history.

The Annapolis Maritime Museum (723 Second St., Annapolis, 410-295-0104, www.annapolis honors 400 years of Anne Arundel County's maritime history. The museum's main building, the McNasby Oyster Co. building, was severely damaged by Tropical Storm Isabel. The museum's important artifacts and exhibits were rescued before the storm, and will be returned to the museum when it is repaired.

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