Visiting one of America’s oldest cities: Annapolis

Maryland’s state capital, Annapolis, has a delightful mix of colonial charm and modern vibrancy. Its 1708 charter makes it one of America’s oldest cities. History is rooted in the narrow streets that are home to 1,300 buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, yet its role as a working state capital and home to the U.S. Naval Academy keeps it firmly planted in the 21st century. Known as America’s Sailing Capital, its location on the Severn River where it meets the Chesapeake Bay is perfect for boaters and offers breathtaking views for the rest of us. Locals say you can tell the arrival of spring just by noting the returning sailboats.

Start your stay in Annapolis at Anne Arundel Conference and Visitors Bureau, where helpful locals are well equipped with pamphlets and maps plus the latest information on restaurants and tours. Available also, are a two-hour colonial walking tour, tours via trolleys, segways and horse-drawn carriages. A costumed guide will relate interesting anecdotes and history as tours meander through the centuries-old streets.

The U.S. Naval Academy has been the undergraduate college for the U.S. Navy since 1845. The Naval Academy chapel has the crypt of John Paul Jones, naval leader during the American Revolution, and Tiffany stained glass windows immortalizing naval heroes. During the school year, time your visit so you’re on campus at noon. Weather permitting, you can see cadets perform a ten-minute outdoor formation before marching inside to lunch.

The Hammond-Harwood House is regarded by many experts as the most outstanding example of five-part Georgian architecture in colonial America. Designed by architect William Buckland, it was built for wealthy plantation owner Mathias Hammond from 1774 to 1776. Buckland never lived to see the completed house and Hammond never lived here because his bride-to-be left him. However, many notable Annapolis families did reside here for generations before it became a museum in 1930. Tours show outstanding collections of mid-18th to early-19th century furnishings and decorative arts. Most noteworthy are the portraits by Peale and the John Shaw furniture made in Baltimore.

Built for a wealthy plantation owner who would later sign the Declaration of Independence, the William Pica House and Garden was completed in 1765. This five-part Georgian mansion is filled with ornate period furnishings and fine arts. The home is surrounded by a manicured two-acre garden with five terraces.

After a tour, stop for tea and Reynold’s Tavern. Located in the downtown historic district, this colonial-era restaurant is known for its daily teas with steaming pots of hot teas and mouth-watering scones heaped with jam.

Antique shopping in Annapolis is a wonderful adventure. The historic areas of Annapolis are centered around Maryland Avenue and State Circle, which rings the State House. During the 18th century, Maryland Avenue was the most elegant residential area in town. Today it’s home to many quality shops, including Evergreen Antiques. Check their ever-changing inventory for a great selection of jewelry, china, pottery and furniture. Not surprisingly, owner Mary Jo Murray is always searching for nautical antiques and anything related to the U.S. Naval Academy because they are so popular in her store.

Be sure to take a short drive to West Annapolis to stroll through quiet neighborhoods with tree-lined streets and check out the specialty shops that intermingle with restaurants and spas.

Three antique shops located here are well worth exploring. Bon Vivant has been located in a 1927 Sears catalog house for 10 years. Owner Carl Ihli specializes in fine porcelain priced under $200. He also has a good selection of eclectic items including a mounted boar’s head signed by Baltimore Orioles players. For 12 years Absolutely Fabulous Antiques and Consignments has been known for painted furniture in ready-to-use condition. Owner Pat Blaser feels that a piece of painted furniture in every room takes away from the starkness of all wood. She has an excellent selection for all tastes as well as other types of furniture and antiques. Pam Levin and Barry Pack have been co-owners of West Annapolis Antiques for ten years. They specialize in antique and estate jewelry but also have a large selection of sterling, glass and china. Levin reports that the retro look from the 1940s is especially popular. 

Annapolis is a dynamic city to visit and a hard place to leave.

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Did You Know?
• More than 50 astronauts graduated from Annapolis.
• Millionaire H. Ross Perot graduated with the class of 1953
• President Jimmy Carter, class of 1947, was a postwar submariner
• The United States Naval Academy occupies an area of land reclaimed from the Severn River next to the Chesapeake Bay.

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For More Information:

Annapolis & Anne Arundel County
Convention & Visitors Bureau
26 West Street
Annapolis, MD 21401

Absolutely Fabulous Antiques & Consignments
24 Annapolis St.
Annapolis, MD 21401

Bon Vivant Antiques
104 Annapolis St.
Annapolis, MD 21401

Evergreen Antiques
69 Maryland Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21401

West Annapolis Antiques
103 Annapolis St.
Annapolis, MD 21401

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