The Annapolis Historic Preservation Commission unanimously approved proposed changes to the Maryland Inn's exterior last night, clearing the way for a Starbucks coffee shop to open on the ground floor.
A wheelchair-lift access plan, previously a sticking point, was presented by project architect Shellie H. Gazlay. Jean Tullier, an Annapolis-based spokeswoman for Remington Hotels, which manages the 1780s-vintage inn, said yesterday, "This is the last hoop for them to jump through."
The five-member city panel approved without debate other changes to the hotel facade, including a Starbucks siren logo -- 3 feet in diameter -- new windows, landscaping and removal of the existing stairwell where the wheelchair platform lift will be installed. Last winter, the commission threw out the coffee-shop application because it lacked a plan for access as required by federal disability law, officials said.
The historic 44-room hotel on Church Circle is undergoing a renovation, with the planned Starbucks occupying the vacant den as the final phase, Tullier said. The former King of France Tavern downstairs still has its original brick floor, stone walls and cooking fireplace but is largely an empty space save for a few goblets and candelabras.
Historic preservationists in the state capital had debated the merits of the coffee chain claiming a venue that was once a haunt for American revolutionaries and patriots, including George Washington. According to Annapolis lore, Washington once lost a horse in a game of cards in the tavern, which was run by a widow named Sarah Ball.
Gregory Stiverson, president of the nonprofit Historic Annapolis Foundation, has publicly supported the plan.
Tullier said the space will not be greatly altered to become a Starbucks outlet. Noting that a popular jazz club occupied the den-like setting in the 1970s, she said the coffee shop would also feature touches of the room's musical past.
"They're working hard to keep the original stuff there, researching artifacts and looking for recordings of the jazz musicians who played there in the 1970s," Tullier said.
"In the last several years, it has not been used. The plan will keep the wooden beams from the 1780s," she said. "People's biggest concern is that the inn's Treaty of Paris [restaurant] and the Drummer's Lot [bar] are going to close, but they are going to stay open."
An archaeological survey will be conducted on the site to comply with the city's historic district requirements, Gazlay said.