In 1649, an English community emerged on the land that now makes up Maryland’s capital. Puritans, seeking religious freedom, nestled into a spot on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay and called their new town Providence. A lot has happened in Annapolis since these settlers first arrived, but one of the most remarkable aspects about our historic city is how it retained it’s historic architecture throughout the centuries. From the oldest state house in continuous legislative use, to playing home to more original, 18th-century brick homes than any other city in the nation, Annapolis has a little something for every American History buff. Here are five historic sites in Annapolis to visit!
The Maryland State House
In the 1700’s, Annapolis led the political, cultural and economic climates in the American Colonies. Construction of what is now Annapolis’ famed Maryland State House began in 1772. The State House has since hosted numerous monumental events, including General George Washington’s resignation from the Continental Army in 1783. Present-day visitors can step inside the Old Senate Chamber, where this event occurred. Congress also ratified the Treaty of Paris here on January 14, 1784, which ended the American Revolution.
The Maryland State House is the first and only state house to serve as the nation’s capitol, with federal government operations transpiring inside from November 1783 to August 1784. The state house now endures as the oldest state house in continuous legislative use, and as the most important historic sites in Annapolis.
The Maryland State House is open to the public every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm except on Christmas and New Years Day. Self-guided tour information is available in the Office of Interpretation on the first floor.
United States Naval Academy
The Naval Academy has been training officers for the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps since 1845. Yet for many, the Naval Academy remains shrouded in mystery. Open to the public year-round (with two forms of valid identification), the USNA offers visitors a wealth of Naval History whether you decide to cruise around the grounds – known as the “Yard” – at your own pace or join a guided tour. Some of the highlights of the Yard – aside from the 19th-century architecture of the academy itself – include the famed John Paul Jones Crypt; the world-class USNA Museum which features the one-of-a-kind Gallery of Ships; the USNA Chapel; Bancroft Hall, and a variety of monuments and statues immortalizing military figures.
There’s also an annual event held each spring that brings in thousands to the USNA’s Yard: Commissioning Week. The event involves a full week of celebratory events for graduating Midshipmen, beginning Friday, May 18, 2018 and culminating with graduation day at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Friday, May 25, 2018. Even if you don’t know anyone graduating from the Academy this year, the highlight of the week for visitors and locals is the airshow put on by the famed Blue Angels. Head to the USNA for the best seats in town as these aerial acrobats dazzle thousands of spectators.
For guided tours of the Yard, head over to the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center to join a group.
Historic London Town
Across the South River, about eight miles from downtown Annapolis, is Historic London Town and Gardens; a 23-acre park featuring history, archaeology, and horticulture on the South River in Edgewater, Maryland.
Part of the Four Rivers Heritage Area, this fascinating site combines history, archaeology, and horticulture. Walk through the historic Brown House, constructed in 1760. Glimpse an active, ongoing archaeological investigation in search of the “lost town” of London. Roam an eight-acre Woodland Garden on a one-mile trail bursting with native plants and exotic species. The seasonal Ornamental Gardens overlook the South River, a magnificent sight. There is also a replicated village showing what life was like when the area was first settled, and the visitors center packed with treasures found in archaeological digs on the site.
Check the events calendar for family-friendly interpretive programs and events that occur here throughout the year. Historic London Town is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm.
City Dock is the historic heart of Annapolis, where it connects with the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, and where you can connect with the water, too. The historic seaport was a major hub for commerce until the establishment of Baltimore as Maryland’s main port in the late 1700s; however, the dozens of 18-century buildings surrounding the harbor still stand, offering Annapolis’ quintessential historic atmosphere. Shops, restaurants, and bars line the area, making for the perfect weekend in downtown Annapolis.
Built in 2002 and located at City Dock set against the Annapolis Harbor, the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial is an Annapolis staple. Celebrating the author’s 1976 book Roots: The Saga of an American Family and its main character Kunta Kinte—who arrived in Annapolis as a slave in 1767 – the memorial depicts Haley reading to a small group of children at the very place where Kunta Kinte first landed in Maryland.
William Paca House
One of Annapolis’ four signers of the Declaration of Independence, William Paca, finished construction on his now famous home in 1765. Carefully restored by Historic Annapolis beginning in 1965, the William Paca House (186 Prince George St.) remains one of the most historic sites in Annapolis; recognized as one of the finest 18th-century homes in the country, and a National Historic Landmark. 40-minutes guided tours of the house feature period furnishings and paintings, and reveal the inner workings of an upper-class household in colonial and revolutionary Annapolis.
The William Paca House and Gardens is open Monday through Saturday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, and Sunday from noon until 5:00 pm.
Photos courtesy of VisitAnnapolis.org