By Mindie Burgoyne
Who knew state government could be interesting? Annapolis is one of the most popular visitor destinations in Maryland because of its sailing, fishing, shopping, great food and beautiful streetscapes. But, Maryland’s capital city has one other remarkable tourist attraction – its government buildings and their unique history.
Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau
26 West Street
Annapolis, Md. 21401-2421
Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Daily
The Maryland State House, built in 1797, is a hallmark feature on the Annapolis skyline. Known for being the oldest state house in continual legislative use in America, it is also the only state house to have served as the nation’s capital. It was at this state house in the old Senate Chamber, that General George Washington surrendered his Commission as the head of the Continental Army. And it was here that Congress met to ratify the Treaty of Paris, which marked the end of the war for independence. The Maryland State House is open to the public and no admission is required. The best time to visit is between January and April, when the Maryland General Assembly is in session.
Leaving the State House, the Government House is a short walk across State Circle and has been the official residence of the governor of Maryland since 1870. It also serves as the center of Maryland’s political and social activities. The governor and his family live here. There are grand formal rooms for entertaining dignitaries and hosting social events that are also open to the public. Tours are offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday by appointment. Contact the Government House at (410) 974-3531.
There were four Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence – Charles Carroll, Samuel Chase, Thomas Stone and William Paca. All four had homes in Annapolis, and all four of those homes are still standing. Several are open for public tours. William Paca, a Maryland legislator, Continental Congressman, Chief Justice and Governor of Maryland had a home one block off State Circle. The William Paca House, now a popular tourist attraction, has stunning terraced gardens with a glimpse of the U. S. Naval Academy Chapel dome.
The U.S. Naval Academy sits on 338 acres adjacent to historic Annapolis. It began in this location in 1845 on 10 acres, built atop the old Fort Severn. It now educates a student body of more than 4,000. Escorted tours are available which include the Naval Academy Chapel, the grave of John Paul Jones and a walking tour of the grounds. Contact the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center for tour information at (410) 293-3365.
Want a break from walking? Annapolis has a fleet of electric cars that offer a shuttle service in the historic areas. These environmentally friendly vehicles will ferry visitors around the historic downtown for free. Tips are appreciated (and expected). Contact eCruisers for more information (443) 497-5365.
Mindie Burgoyne is an author, travel writer and tour guide living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her blog, The Travel Hag, shares information on outdoor travel for women. She is the author of Haunted Eastern Shore: Ghostly Tales from East of the Chesapeake.