Morale-building mural celebrates city charter


In the spirit of 1708, when a royal charter was handed down to Colonial Annapolis, a town crier Friday proclaimed the first event of the Annapolis Charter 300 celebration: the unveiling of an outdoor mural on the side of the Hillman municipal parking garage.

Under clear skies, a small crowd congregated by Gorman Street, a side street off Main Street that the 36-by-14-foot gauzy mural will face. The lively Colonial life mural is actually a digital image of an oil painting done by Annapolis artist Lee A. Boynton 10 years ago that hangs in City Hall.

Boynton, who attended the unveiling, enjoyed telling Mayor Ellen O. Moyer and others that one Colonial figure had the same face as former Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins - who was also present to enjoy the laugh.

"It's an exciting thing to see that [picture] blown up, art brought out to the streets," Boynton said, adding that it is one of a city history trilogy.

The city's Charter 300 plans, just starting to ramp up toward a year of events in 2008, plans to rotate the outdoor mural among the state capital's eight wards as a civic morale-building boost. Permission from the city's historic preservation commission was recently granted to hang the mural in the downtown historic district.

Boynton, the artist, said the outdoor reproduction depicts Annapolis society as it was in 1708, with a diverse representation of men, women and children listening to a royal governor read a charter. Set on the land now known as Church Circle, he painted 30 figures, including ordinary people such as a sailor, a barber, a laundress and some shop owners.

The charter brought representative government to the city and created Annapolis as a Colonial capital and the first municipality in Maryland, city officials said.

Moyer said, "That's the beginning of the city. Imagine - coming over a big ocean, arriving and seeing nothing."

She was pleased enough with the dressed-up parking garage to invite Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, who was visiting Friday to give a gubernatorial waterside stump speech, to view the mural. The two mayors then had a brief Maryland history discussion before O'Malley pressed on to the Eastern Shore.

"That's what it's about, to bring people together to ask questions and delve into the history books," Boynton said. "It's a conversation piece."

Bevin Buchheister, a downtown resident who saw the mural, said, "Is that before Annapolis had parking problems?"

"It fits really well," said Jacqui Rouse, a city planner, as she looked at the Hillman Garage exterior. "The fencing is a frame."

Boynton, who won a competition to paint the history trilogy, did his homework. On the mural's distant waterfront, tobacco ships are visible as a mainstay of the seaport's economy.

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