From 1649 – today… An abridged history of Annapolis, Md.
Annapolis has a long and inspiring past, and the seaport’s history dates back to the colonial era. Maryland’s capital played significant roles in America’s creation and development, and hosted important political conventions that produced vital plans for the nation’s future. The coastal city first appeared on maps when it was a small settlement with a different name.
Puritan settlers traveled to Maryland from England seeking the freedom to practice religion as they saw fit. These newcomers selected a location on the Chesapeake Bay and established a town known as Providence in 1649. The community experienced swift growth and became a significant city within 50 years.
King William’s School started holding classes in 1696. The institution renamed itself St. John’s College about 88 years later, and it continues to educate students today. Most enrollees earn liberal arts degrees, and only two American universities have served the public longer than St. John’s has. Travelers can see its well-preserved buildings when they tour the historic district.
Annapolis has had more names than the average city. Officials temporarily changed Providence’s official moniker to Townland at Proctor’s. It subsequently became known as Anne Arundel’s Towne, named after the powerful Lord Baltimore’s wife, Lady Anne Arundell. After this city began serving as the capital of the surrounding colony, Governor Francis Nicholson renamed it Annapolis. England’s Princess Anne inspired this name; she ascended the throne in 1702.
Nicholson also designed the streets of Annapolis, creating circles around the Statehouse and Episcopal Church. Both buildings benefited from lofty locations with ocean views. The royal governor decided to start every street at the perimeter of a circle, and because of this design, Annapolis resembles several major European capitals.
Annapolis became the home of America’s first brick theater in 1771. Residents enjoyed watching plays in the little brick building, and today, locals and visitors continue to attend numerous opera, play and ballet performances at several attractive venues. The Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, the building of which was constructed in the early 1930s, features an auditorium with 800 seats.
America’s first president repeatedly traveled to Annapolis — In fact, George Washington appreciated the city’s amenities and street configuration so much that he decided to designate it as the new country’s capital. The U.S. government was headquartered in Annapolis for about nine months. In December 1783, Washington appeared before Congress to tender his resignation as the Army’s top commander.
Vacationers may tour Maryland’s Statehouse in the heart of Annapolis known as the historic district. They can even enter the room where Washington spoke to congressmen; it’s currently known as the Old Senate Chamber. Maryland’s capitol building is the nation’s oldest. It hosted the Constitutional Convention and Annapolis Convention during the 1780s, and Congress also approved the Treaty of Paris at this location. It formally brought an end to the Revolutionary War.
Annapolis features dozens of impressive historic buildings. Saint Anne’s Episcopal Church has stood for more than three centuries, and the Old Treasury distributed funds during the 1730s. Over 55 local homes were constructed before the Revolutionary War, including vast mansions with ballrooms and ornate architecture. Visitors can tour many of these buildings, such as the William Paca House and the James Brice House.
The Atlantic Ocean has played a tremendous role in the city’s history. During the 1800s, fishing and shipping became Annapolis’ most important industries. Numerous locals worked in shipyards or harvested oysters from the sea. Today, Annapolis primarily serves as a port for recreational watercraft. Private yachts, racing vessels and sailboats regularly enter its harbor.
Fort Severn became the U.S. Naval Academy in 1845. It ranks among the city’s most famous landmarks, and the campus spans nearly 340 riverside acres. Every year, this institution celebrates graduation day with live music and a parade. Guests may browse an assortment of models and artifacts in the academy’s museum.
The Civil War
Fortunately, no Civil War battles took place in Annapolis. This is one reason why visitors can see so many intact structures from the 18th and 19th centuries. Nevertheless, the war had significant effects on the state capital. Troops underwent training at a local military installation, and the Army sent numerous injured soldiers to medical facilities in this city.
The Annapolis Emergency Hospital started accepting patients about three decades after the Civil War came to an end. Administrators changed its name to Anne Arundel General Hospital in 1949. Meanwhile, the military established two bases in Annapolis: Greenbury Point and Camp Admiral. The latter eventually became known as Fort Meade.
Several noteworthy events transpired during the 1950s and 1960s. Friendship International Airport opened in June 1950. Two years later, people started crossing the new Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The Anne Arundel County Fair came into existence during the same year, and Maryland’s first shopping mall began serving customers in 1958. The county ended segregation in schools about eight years later.
Annapolis fully transitioned to computerized voting equipment in 2004. A year later, Maryland officials renamed the city’s airfield to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. This name honors the Supreme Court’s first African-American judge, Thurgood Marshall, who began his life in Baltimore and worked tirelessly to end segregation.
Important global conferences have taken place at the U.S. Naval Academy. The leaders of the United States, Israel and the Palestinian Authority held talks there in November 2007, and over 40 nations sent representatives to the meeting. Participants attempted to find solutions that would end armed conflicts in the Middle East. Six months later, high-ranking American and Chinese officials discussed international trade.
Maryland’s captial city has helped shape the future of Maryland, the United States and the world. It gives travelers a rare opportunity to walk colonial-era streets and to tour buildings that the nation’s founding fathers visited. The city’s cherished traditions and centuries-old structures truly bring history to life.