Exploring Annapolis

The Maryland State House and the state flag to the left. Baron De Kalb is honored because he led Maryland and Delaware troops in battle until he was “pierced with many wounds” on August 16, 1780.
A grand entrance to the Maryland State House.
Close-up of the Maryland State Seal.

During my teaching trip in Annapolis, Will and I found time to explore Annapolis before classes started, and on some evenings after class. It’s a picturesque East Coast village with some cobbled streets and clearly dated architecture. The State House was particularly appealing. Built in the 1770s, it’s the oldest state house in the U.S. still in use. From here, George Washington resigned his commission before the Continental Congress. A month later from here, Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris to end the Revolutionary War.

A street near the State House.
A street leading down to the waterfront.
More typical homes.
Appealing sidewalk near the center of Annapolis.

We were enjoying walking up and down streets and remarking upon the old buildings, and sometimes grand old houses. We passed one grand old house that said it was “Open.” We walked up the steps to make inquiries. The place was the William Paca House. The house was built in the 1760s (and then improved upon in order to “keep up with the Joneses.”) complete with a 2-acre garden. William Paca (rhymes with “take a”) was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and was Maryland’s third Governor. His good fortune had much to do with the fact that a year after he graduated from law school he married wealthy Mary Chew in 1763. Naturally, all the prestige and grandeur of the place is named after him (grr).

A tour was starting in 20 minutes so we bought tickets, and then went out to explore the garden while we waited. The 2-acre garden was covered for a long time by a large hotel, but when the hotel came down, the decision was made to excavate. Archaeologists found foundations and paths and a brick wall that helped them recreate the garden as it once had been.

One of the grand old houses.
A view of the William Paca House from the garden.
Summer House and bridge recreated from a painting of Paca that shows these things in the background.
Statue on top of the Summer House. See the medical snake-and-staff symbol in his hand?
Standing at the house looking down to the Summer House.
There wasn’t much to see in the garden in the middle of November, but we did like these overgrown asparagus.
Who’d have guessed asparagus was a Christmas berry?

We were called back to the house with a dinner bell, which I think is a nice touch. The only problem was that I didn’t hear it. Will did though, so we were on time. I think if one is waiting to be called to dinner, the bell might be easier to pick out amidst the other noise of the city, ha ha. We then were taken on a one-hour tour of the interior of the house, well-maintained and fascinating to see.

We started in the lowest level at the kitchen, set up as though it were in use. Over the fake fire was some fake meat on a spit, but what captured our interest was the automated spit turner. This contraption with the chains and gears was said to be in use when the Paca family lived here. The jaw filled with metal teeth at the top left is to use to roast a fish from the bay.
The rooms in the house were done as authentically as possible, including an attempt to discover the original paint colours and match them. The white plaster over the fireplace was a custom job, based on the markings left on the stained wall when renovations were begun.
From the stairs looking down.
Rooms included the clothing that may have been worn by the original family.
More of that fabulous blue paint!

We left the William Paca House and headed directly to the Naval Academy to catch the museum there before it closed for the day. I’ll post tomorrow about the Academy. We did find time to enjoy other things in Annapolis, like great food, night life, and the waterfront.

Annapolis Harbor in the lowering sun.
A very happy Will who just tasted his gigantic milkshake. (He was kind enough to order a second straw for me) This is at Chick & Ruth’s Delly – a great place for superfresh heaps of crab.
I stopped in at Galway Bay pub for a Guinness with some midshipmen.
The nighttime streets were decked out for Christmas.

A few nights later we went to a cat cafe that Will had found for me. He remembered how much I enjoyed the one in Japan, and discovered that there is one very close to the hotel where we were based. The best thing about the place is it’s name: Kittens In Cups. They house 12-16 cats at a time, and they are all adoptable except one. You pay an hourly fee and can get coffee, tea, and snacks, just like in Japan. You take off coats and shoes in the entry room, then there are two additional rooms filled with cat trees and couches and tables and chairs and you can hang out with any cats that will have you. There is a third room with a cat-sized entryway, where several of them would run to if they got too stressed out. We were there in the evening and the cats were pretty mellow and I think most of them would have preferred to take a nap. But we did get some good interaction, especially when the lady at the counter sold us a tiny bag of treats.

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