Writer draws on city's history

Research and books help illustrate a deep understanding of Annapolis

November 20, 2005|By JAMIE STIEHM | JAMIE STIEHM,SUN REPORTER

Ginger Mignon Marie Doyel is a young writer and artist with a room of her own in Annapolis, a place where the composed 25-year-old has authored two books about city history this year - with a third on the way.

The sunlit living room in her historic district apartment is also her studio and is designed for solitude and inspiration. The windows give lofty views of the Navy Chapel's copper-clad green dome, the State House and the William Paca House garden cupola.

With a recent oil portrait of herself on the wall, wearing a single strand of pearls, the room announces the fourth-generation Annapolitan is squarely in her element.

Doyel has accomplished much for someone her age. A hard work ethic lives here.

"Time is precious to me. I probably went to a pub three times in my college career," she says, looking back on her years spent at the University of Maryland and the University of Richmond. "I'm a very early-morning person. I like to be up with the sun."

While many graduates in the class of 2001 may be finding their way in the world by day and partying lightheartedly by night, Doyle says she doesn't "really" date: "There's no rush." Despite being named one of the city's most eligible singles in this month's issue of What's Up? Annapolis magazine, she generally prefers the company of older people. Her idea of a good time is a lecture at St. John's College. Her books are her pride and joy, and Annapolis Vignettes, which she wrote and illustrated, has been well-received.

And one of these years, she might be on a ballot near you, running for office as a Republican ("with a little r," she adds). But that can wait.

Next is Gone to Market: The Annapolis Market House 1698-2005, which will be in local bookstores early next month. The city of Annapolis paid Doyel $8,000 last year to write the book despite the uncertainty over the Market House, which has been vacant since Jan. 1.

City history

The hardcover presents the chronology of various market houses in Annapolis - there have been eight - with text, maps and photographs. The current City Dock structure came close to demise in 1968, when the city council voted to raze it to make way for more parking. Anne St. Clair Wright, a legend in historic preservation, led the fight to save the Market House.

The city-owned Market House, Doyel says, is a lens through which to watch the evolution, social forces and political conflicts of Annapolis play out.

"It's more than a story about a building," Doyel says. "It's about social trends and land use."

Jan Hardesty, the city's spokeswoman, says officials approached Doyel with the concept because "she embodies Annapolis like someone from a different era. She understands the culture so well, including that [old] culture of gentility. She makes history not a static point in time, but relevant and readable."

Doyel, Hardesty says, has a timeless quality, as if she "walked right out of a Jane Austen novel, with those ethereal wide eyes."

Doyel's father, Roger T. Doyel, says that, contrary to her ladylike demeanor, he raised his eldest daughter so that she could throw a ball and climb a tree as well as any boy. As an adult, she says, she plays golf - "my outdoor cathedral" - with a 12 handicap and runs by the Severn River on the Naval Academy Yard.

As a young woman, her father says, Ginger acquired more feminine graces - mostly from her mother's old-school side of the family. Ballroom dancing has long since replaced climbing trees.

Her artistic talent was nurtured when she was 3, Doyel says, when her father built her a drawing desk. Her family lived in Scotland then - her father, a Naval Academy graduate, was on active duty - and, she recalls, "It rained a lot."

"I remember [Scotland] vividly," she says. "The rural landscape, the sheep field, making up stories with my dad."

From that point, she received instruction in art when her family moved from Scotland to Virginia Beach, Va. After her father served as the White House dentist, the family settled in Annapolis in 1991, when she was 11. The oldest of two daughters, she attended the Severn School and graduated from St. Mary's High School in 1997. Her mother, Michele, to whom the Market House book is dedicated, worked on the project as a research assistant.

Artistic endeavors

After college, Doyel worked for the PGA Tour as a golf artist. In that post-college period, she also underwent a personal passage: breaking off an engagement that began with a proposal by the Great Wall of China.

"I hadn't had my own adventures yet," she says. "I lost my voice. I've reclaimed that space."

Then her life landscape completely changed in 2002, when she came to spend a month "home" in Annapolis - where both her grandfathers attended the Naval Academy in the 1940s and where her grandmothers grew up.

This, she felt, was where she belonged.

"I felt a stronger pull to stay," she says.

Betting on her intuition, she left the PGA and started a career that is an unusual blend, as many artists don't write and many writers don't paint.

With no formal training, Doyel first started putting into words all the intrusions a day could bring when she was at home working on children's book illustrations and golf paintings. She found her flowing writing style through imagining her hometown's past. Three years ago, she started writing a historical column for The Capital newspaper, a monthly feature that became a storytelling showcase.

Next up is a privately published book on the Annapolitan Club - and then there's no telling what tale Doyel will write next. Perhaps a biography of another original character she met in her study of city lore, St. Clair Wright.

jamie.stiehm@baltsun.com

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