Annapolis to celebrate 300 years


May 13, 2007|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN REPORTER

Jamestown, Va., where the queen of England is due to come to call this summer, isn't the only Colonial settlement marking a milestone: Annapolis is celebrating 300 years of democracy.

With events this year through December 2008 - when the city will re-sign the charter established in 1708 by England's Queen Anne - the city will stitch together its rich and colorful past into a "tapestry," as Mayor Ellen O. Moyer puts it.

"This will be total immersion, touching all the senses," said Moyer, who has made Charter 300 the hallmark of her second term. "We'll have an academic forum. We'll have new signposts showing sites of archaeological interest. We'll have a Queen Anne's Ball next year. And we've been in touch with invitations to the British Embassy."

Her wish: to expand what's generally known about the city, beyond its status as the seat of state government with a Chesapeake waterfront charm.

The estimated cost of the city celebration is $3 million, said Karen Engelke, coordinator of special events. She and other organizers said it will provide perspective on the present, not just its past.

"It helps us see where we are now as part of history," she said.

Puritans forced out of Virginia originally settled the area on the banks of the Severn River in the 17th century and called their small community Providence.

In 1696, Francis Nicholson, the English Colonial governor, drew the elegant design of the central city plan in baroque circles - one for the state and one for the church - and placed the government building perch higher than that of the church steeple. He named it Annapolis for the princess who would become queen in 1702.

Though the charter granted voting rights to some, it also made clear that others were not free. Annapolis was a slave port for hundreds of ships sailing from Africa.

In 1767, the human cargo included Kunta Kinte, who arrived in bondage from Gambia and was immortalized in the Alex Haley best-seller Roots. A memorial to both stands at City Dock.

Today, Moyer said, the city's population is one-third African-American, and more attention will be paid to its collective past than in most accounts. A former African-American enclave for recreation in the early to mid-20th century, Carr's Beach, will be identified with a dedication and a marker, she said.

St. John's College, a short walk from an institutional neighbor, the Naval Academy, will do its part with a free winter series of history lectures and a scholarly symposium next spring.

On the classical musical front, a young-composers competition held by the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra will result in four original orchestral scores inspired by the city. The composers, age 35 and younger, were selected from an international field of more than 100 applicants. Each will visit Annapolis to hear the world premiere of his or her work played by the symphony during the 2007-2008 season.

"The audience will help judge the winner, which reflects the spirit of Charter 300 democracy," said Jose Luis-Novo, the symphony conductor. "We'll engage everyone in decision-making."

Chuck Weikel, executive director of Annapolis Charter 300, said the festival's cultural components surpass what might be expected in a relatively small city of about 35,000.

Many events are free, he noted, such as ArtWalk, a major outdoor mural exhibit by several local artists, the first ever to be seen on the Colonial streets downtown.

To attract more visitors this year and next, Weikel said he expects Comcast, the television cable company, to produce and air a short public service spot on the celebration. Exchange activities with Annapolis Royal, a sister city in Canada, also are in the works.

As word spreads, he said, community organizations and residents are chiming in with variations on how to observe the 300-year mark. It's not too late for them to participate, he adds.

"We have a number of homegrown new ideas that continue to bubble up," Weikel said. "We have to be flexible enough to absorb new ideas."


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