Oldest Capitol Still in Use

Trip Start Jan 01, 1975
Trip End Jan 01, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Maryland
Wednesday, November 10, 1993

I may have visited Annapolis in my younger days but I don't remember if I did. I do remember my visit in November 1993 on a long finish-the-state-capitals visit, where I also visited Lansing, Columbus, Harrisburg, Trenton, Dover, and Washington, DC.

This absolutely stunning place still stands out in memory -- brilliant houses, brilliant trees. The feeling inside the capitol is almost overwhelming it is so historical and beautiful. The feeling beside the harbor is soothing, pleasing, comforting. This is a LOVELY town.

Here's what I wrote about it then.

Maryland was the SEVENTH state.
Date: April 28, 1788
Nickname: Old Line State
Key Words: Charming, Colonial, Colorful, Naval, Harbor, Graceful

Annapolis was laid out as the provincial capital in 1695. The State House was built in 1772 and is the oldest in continuous use in the US. It was the first peacetime capitol of the US - The Treaty of Paris was signed here, officially ending the American Revolution.
Annapolis is a graceful colonial town, with life centering on water activities, government, and the US Naval Academy.

St John's College (1784) is located here too - Francis Scott Key was an alumnus. The entire downtown area is a designated National Historic District, with houses painted in the brilliant blues, reds, and sea-green colors of long ago.

Facts: Annapolis, Maryland
Population: 33,187 (43rd largest of the 50 capitals)
Time Zone: Eastern
Elevation: 50 feet
Water near: Severn River, Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean
Mountains near: Allegheny, Catoctins, Appalachians
Distance from DC: 35 miles

I saw how it hit his eyes. My "G-Mom Goes" license plate changed the gate-guard's face; stern squint became a friendly grin. Connection made, we chatted about the U. S. Naval Academy. He waved me through.

The parade ground was empty, but flashed me back to Youngest Kid's Marine graduation, the young men starched and marching, ordered not to smile. We stood there pointing, pleased, not even sure we'd found our own, till it was done and caps went flying through the cheers.

I guess that feeling gets repeated here each May, when "Commissioning Week" changes students into officers and parents into smiles.

I drove the quiet, spacious campus, then visited the Naval Academy Museum, a storehouse of naval history. It's a good place to begin an Annapolis tour, for everything about this city is attuned to water.

On the banks of the Severn River and the edge of Chesapeake Bay, seafood and sailing define the days, delight the visitors, and entice many a resident to endure a long commute from a distant office. It's a Good Place to come home to.

I'd read it was a town for strolling. Academy toured, car parked, I decked my neck with cameras and strolled. I was in the Historic Area, laid out in 1696 in a plan of radiating streets and interconnecting circles.

At the center of the largest circle was the State House, my destination. Early November tree-leaves brightened the walk. My cotton sweater was enough.

The Maryland State House has enviable bragging rights. It's the oldest state capitol still in continuous legislative use, and the only state capitol ever to serve as national capitol, from November 26, 1783 to August 13, 1784.

I entered from the north, peeked into the Senate Chamber. Four from Maryland signed the Declaration of Independence; their portraits honor the Chamber walls. Red-carpet floors, Italian marble columns; a dignified workspace for lawmakers.

Across the hall, Chamber of the House, marble walled too, the carpet deep blue, panels computerized for easy-read voting. Visitors, welcome during session, have a fine view from second-floor galleries.

Back in the hall, I crossed the black stripe. Laid in the marble floor, it joins the old section of the building (1779) with the new (1905). Craning camera skyward, I looked up and up into the rotunda, a windowed, light-flooding space. An exhibit in the Archives Room offered crosscut explanation of the construction.

The largest wooden dome in the U. S., it's constructed of cypress beams and assembled with wooden pegs. State House officers climb its 149 steps each day to raise and lower the Maryland flag.

Facts: Annapolis, Maryland
Capitol completed: 1779
National Historic Landmark
Design: Colonial revival style
Meeting Annually: 47 Senators, 141 Delegates

The building's careful preservation takes you time traveling.
December 23, 1783: The Revolutionary War hostilities ended, General George Washington stands before you, resigning his post as Commander of the Continental Army.
January 14, 1784: The Treaty of Paris is ratified, providing official recognition of the United States of America by the rest of the world.
May 7, 1784: Thomas Jefferson is appointed first United States minister to foreign governments.

It happened in the Old Senate Room when the State House was our National Capitol: bronzed-plaque reminders mark the spot. Outside the ancient windows, trees blazed red-leaved, summer's history speaking too.

I could see the Old City towards the harbor; cars were creeping down the curving circle. I left the State House, walking south. The narrow streetscape was brilliant as the trees; eye-tingling. No dull buildings here, but rich orange-reds, teal-emerald greens, brick with shutters bluer than a sunny sea.

This National Historic site, literally a museum without walls, was alive with students, shoppers, craftspeople, lawmakers, people like me from Tennessee, friendly folks.
Neck-sore from cameras and hungry as a seagull, I looked for a lunch spot; found one to please. I devoured the crab, read through my new brochures. The boat-bobbing City Dock was user-friendly, inviting all-day-by-the-bay sitting, a welcoming spot.

Annapolis is not an industrial town, but busy with research and development. It has one of the highest concentrations of 18th century buildings in the nation with more than 80 documented as pre-Revolutionary.

Facts: Annapolis, Maryland
City settled: 1649
By: 10 Puritan families from Virginia
Name origin: Anne Arundel after wife of Maryland's founding sponsor, renamed Annapolis
Maryland became state: April 28, 1788 (7th)
Annapolis became capital Maryland Colony: 1694, remained capital after statehood
Thomas Todd chose this spot for a boatyard in 1650. Ten Puritan families had settled on the other side of the Severn a year before, coming from Virginia, religious freedom their cause.
Growth and changes of name took place over the next 45 years, but in 1694 the north side of the Severn was designated capital of the crown colony. It has remained so since that time!

Annapolis was chartered in 1709; it's one of the oldest cities in the country. King William's School was founded in 1696, now St John's College, for liberal arts; the US Naval Academy was established in 1845.

My post-lunch walk zig-zagged me towards my car. I played stop-a-lot in bookstores, galleries, and churches; I slow-walked Prince George Street, its brick-paved sidewalks tripping with tree roots, houses touching in a neighborly-but-separate way, church bells counting off the day. Time to go.

Inside my car, I reviewed the route that would take me into Virginia and my evening's lodging. When I'd entered Maryland from Delaware that morning, the "Welcome" sign admonished me to "Drive Gently." I did so on my way out.
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