Back in the day, the colonial capital city of Annapolis was considered the Athens of America. For hundreds of years, Annapolis has been known for its wealth of cultural activities, seasonal festivals, and gracious hospitality.
Today Annapolis brings in over four million people annually to its shores, but the ambiance and tidewater cuisine has been attracting guests since its early days. The capital of Maryland was originally called Providence when it was first settled by Puritans. Awhile later the name was changed to, “Anne Arundel’s Towne,” in honor of the wife of Lord Baltimore.
Later, the Royal Governor, Sir Francis Nicholson, moved the capital to its current location, from St. Mary’s City, and renamed it Annapolis. The name was chosen as a way to honor Princess Anne, who at the time, was heir to the throne.
As Queen, Anne officially chartered the colonial town as a city in 1708. Today the Annapolis flag depicts her royal badge with a crown over entwined thistle of Scotland and Tudor rose of England.
When Sir Francis designed Annapolis, he chose to construct a city worthy of a Queen by forgoing the common grid system and instead opting for a baroque plan, similar to other beautiful well-known European capitals. The circles of Annapolis radiate outward with streets to create focus points and highlight important structures, such as the Maryland State House which resides in the center of State Circle in downtown Annapolis.
One such admirer of this design was President George Washington, who later requested Pierre L’Enfant to create a similar design in the nation’s capital.
As a thriving shipping industry, much wealth was brought to Annapolis which was reflected in the beautiful mansions that were designed to rival those of England. The homes, which entertained many of our Founding Fathers, featured lavish ballrooms and formal gardens such as the William Paca House in downtown Annapolis.
Today, many of these homes are open to the public and operated by the Historic Annapolis Foundation. A variety of events, tours and exhibitions take place on these very grounds, offering visitors further insight into life when Annapolis was first founded.
Along with the historic mansions, Annapolis features a wealth of art from the various galleries downtown, to the Maryland Hall for Creative Arts—a thriving center for performance and fine arts, not to mention a variety of classes for all age ranges. Annapolis is home to several resident companies from ballet, to the symphony, to the opera and chorale, many of which perform at Maryland Hall in Annapolis.
Throughout the year, many concerts take place for both visitors and residents and are hosted from small theatre groups and bands to the larger institutions such as the United States Naval Academy and St. John’s College—which was founded in 1696 as King William’s School. These two schools in particular are known for their contributions to the Annapolis community, especially through their annual Annapolis Cup event—a croquet game which takes place on the front lawn of the St. John’s campus.
Along with these two longstanding educational institutions, Annapolis contains great historical significance. During the Revolutionary War, Maryland’s capital was also the country’s capital when the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the war. Four signers of the Declaration of Independence were Maryland residents with impressive homes that still stand today.
In honor of Annapolis’s significance in our country’s history, many pubs and restaurants still serve similar cuisine dating back to the menus of the 18th century. Today, Annapolis is still a thriving historic community with a wide range of offerings for all ages and both residents and non-residents of Maryland!