Touring Annapolis in the footsteps of local history

Visitors: The city offers walking and boating tours that give a glimpse of life in the past.

August 08, 2004|By Nancy Knisley | Nancy Knisley,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Annapolis is ideal for exploring on foot. It is compact, with most of its notable sites within a small area. And its narrow Colonial-era streets can make touring by vehicle a challenge. Visitors can choose from a number of walking tours of Annapolis, each with its own focus.

Guides wearing Colonial garb lead the walking tours for Three Centuries Tours of Annapolis. The two-hour and 15-minute public tours include the historic district and dock area, the interior of the State House, the campus of St. John's College and the U.S. Naval Academy's grounds and buildings. No reservations are needed to join the 10:30 a.m. tours, which begin at the Annapolis Visitors Center, 26 West St. (daily April 1 through Oct. 31) or the 1:30 p.m. tours, which start at the information booth on the City Dock (daily April 1 through Oct. 31; Saturdays-only Nov. 1 through March 31). Because the tours enter the State House and the Naval Academy, everyone older than 16 must have photo identification. The public tours cost $11 for adults, and $6 for students ages 6 to 18.

An African-American History Tour highlighting Annapolis' African-American culture and history also can be arranged. Reservations are needed for Three Centuries' evening Ghost Tours at Halloween and, in mid-December, Candlelight Strolls led by guides carrying lanterns. 410- 263-5401, www.annapolis-tours. com.

Architectural historian Dorothy Callahan leads the Annapolis Walkabout tour, which focuses on the 18th-century architecture of the historic district and Naval Academy, as well as the lives of the people who built, lived and worked in the buildings. The two-hour tour is geared more toward adults than young children, Callahan says, but children are welcome. The tours, limited to 15 people, leave the Annapolis Visitors Center at 11:30 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays, April through October, and cost $8.25 a person. Tours are available at other times by reservation. 410-263-8253.

The new Ghosts of Annapolis tour promises a spirited evening walk to 14 reportedly haunted locations in historic Annapolis. During the 90-minute tour, visitors will learn the history of the locations, who haunts them and why, as well as hear firsthand accounts of residents of the buildings or those who have worked in them. Reservations are recommended for the tours, which, from now through Labor Day, are given at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays. During the remainder of September and October, the tours will be given Friday and Saturday evenings, except Halloween weekend, when extra tours will be added. Tours are $15 for adults, and $8 for ages 4 to 12. Tours begin at 92 Maryland Ave., just off State Circle. 410-263-9686, ghosts ofannapolis.com.

The Historic Annapolis Foundation offers three self-guided tours of Annapolis. The Historic Annapolis Walking Tour and the African Heritage Walking Tour are audio tours, the former narrated by Walter Cronkite, the latter by Charles Dumas. Each takes about 1 1/2 hours to walk. Visitors can also buy the $5 pamphlet, Revolutionary Annapolis: William Paca's Revolutionary Road, which guides them to Revolutionary War-era sites in the historic district, or rent the audio tour for $5 at the Foundation's Museum Store, 77 Main St., adjacent to City Dock. 410-268-5576, www.annap olis.org.

In addition, the foundation sponsors theme walks throughout the year. Coming tours include Annapolis' 18th-century social clubs and Annapolis by Candlelight. 410-267-7619, Ext. 8146.

The foundation also conducts docent-guided tours of the 18th-century William Paca House and Garden, 186 Prince George St. Tours of the home of William Paca, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, begin every half-hour, starting at 10:30 a.m. every day except Sunday -- when the house opens at noon -- until 5 p.m. (Closed New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.) $8 for adults; $7 for senior citizens; and $5 for children. 800-603-4020, 410-267- 7619.

See a different side of life in Annapolis' past by taking the self-guided Eastport Walking Tour. Begin the walk -- which covers 12 blocks and takes about an hour -- at the foot of the Eastport side of the Spa Creek Bridge, where there is a panel giving an overview of the tour. The walk includes 13 sites, each marked with a storyboard with pictures telling the story of the integrated, blue-collar community of sailors, sail makers, ship chandlers, watermen, oyster packers and boat builders who lived and worked in the area. Among the sites are the original oyster-packing plant, the fort at Horn Point, the area's first African-American church, the original African-American school and the Trumpy Yacht Yard.

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