Annapolis is home to history

Four signers of the Declaration of Independence were from Maryland, and their homes are still standing in the state capital

May 14, 2006|By KAREN NITKIN | KAREN NITKIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Four of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence were Marylanders.

Those four men - William Paca, Samuel Chase, Charles Carroll and Thomas Stone - had all been trained as lawyers. They were all in their 30s when they signed, and they all had homes in Annapolis. Remarkably, all four of those homes are standing today.

According to Glenn E. Campbell, a historian with the Historic Annapolis Foundation, Annapolis is the only city in the nation with surviving homes from all its Declaration signers. In fact, only 15 signers' houses exist nationwide.

The Annapolis homes, in various states of preservation and use, offer rare glimpses at what life was like for the elite members of society during Colonial times.

The house that is most accessible to the public is the William Paca House and Garden, on Prince George Street, which has been meticulously restored and provides guided tours.

The Chase-Lloyd House, owned at one time by signer Samuel Chase, is now a home for retired women, though it is open at limited hours, and tours are given.

The Peggy Stewart House, home to Thomas Stone, is a private residence. And the Charles Carroll House is closed for renovations.

Here is a little about each house and the people who inhabited it. A good source for additional information is the new Annapolis history center, History Quest, at 99 Main St. The center offers guided audio tours of Annapolis during Revolutionary times, and includes stops at all four houses, Campbell said.

The William Paca House and Garden, 186 Prince George St., Annapolis, 410-267-7619. William Paca, according to written material provided by Campbell, was born in Baltimore in 1740 and went to school in Philadelphia before becoming a lawyer in Annapolis. He married heiress Mary Chew in 1763 and purchased two 1-acre lots in Annapolis a few days after his marriage.

After the Revolutionary War, he served three one-year terms as Maryland's governor and was a federal District Court judge for the last 10 years of his life. He died in 1799.

His house was sold in 1780 (Paca moved to Wye Island in Queen Anne's County) and changed hands many times in the 1800s. In 1901, it was expanded and became the Carvel Hotel. By the time the hotel closed in 1965, the original structure was in poor shape.

Historic Annapolis Foundation and local preservationists acquired the home and began doing serious research to re-create what it would have been like in Paca's time.

Today, the rooms are decorated in period furniture and the walls - painted in authentic colors - are decorated with portraits of people the Pacas might have known. Each room is set up as a tableau - in the parlor, a game of dominoes appears to be in progress; in the kitchen, several pies are lined up near the hearth, waiting to be baked. The two stories that are open to the public include bedrooms.

The 2-acre property includes a terraced garden, with era-appropriate herbs and a scenic white bridge over a fish-shaped pond. No tours are given of the gardens, but visitors may get a glimpse of the local rabbits, or of Jefferson, the resident black cat.

The Paca House is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Tours are given every hour, on the half-hour, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $5 for children.

The Chase-Lloyd House, 22 Maryland Ave., is considered one of the finest Colonial buildings in Annapolis, according to Architecture in Annapolis, published in 1998 by the Maryland Historical Trust.

Declaration signer Samuel Chase, born in 1741 in Somerset County, became a lawyer in Annapolis in 1759 and was friends with William Paca. He married Ann Baldwin in 1762. He served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court from 1796 until his death in 1811.

Chase started construction of the house in 1769, but ran short of funds and sold the incomplete structure to Edward Lloyd IV in 1771. The house, completed by Lloyd in 1774, was sold in the early 1800s to Judge Jeremiah Townley Chase and occupied by his nieces. In 1883, Hester Ann Chase Rideout bequeathed it to St. Anne's Episcopal Church for use as a home for elderly women. It has been used as such ever since.

The first floor of the building is open to the public from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, though it is closed in January and February. Guided tours take about a half-hour. Admission is $2.

Peggy Stewart House, 207 Hanover St. Declaration signer Thomas Stone purchased this home in 1783, four years before his death. The house, built by Thomas Rutland in the early 1760s, was named for one of its owners, Anthony Stewart, who was forced by an angry mob to burn his own ship, the Peggy Stewart (named after his daughter) after paying the controversial tea tax.

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