ANNAPOLIS AND BEYOND
By Dan Schlossberg
Navy football season extends well past Thanksgiving, culminating in a Dec. 2 grudge
match many consider the college equivalent of the New York Yankees versus the Boston
The Army-Navy game is a big deal in Annapolis, a compact community steeped in history
and maritime tradition but unaffected by proximity to the urban centers of Washington and
Annapolis locals insist they live close enough to the cities to enjoy them but far enough
away not to be bothered by them.
On the map, Annapolis is the meat of the sandwich, with Washington 33 miles west,
Baltimore 24 miles north, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) 18 miles
northwest. Public transportation is available to all three.
That's good news for fans of winter sports, since there are big-league football franchises
in both cities, plus basketball and hockey in the District of Columbia. For baseball's
Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles, however, winter is the best part of the
calendar: they can't lose any more games.
Losing is one of the worst things that can happen to a politician, an athlete, or a sports
fan. When the Army-Navy game comes to Annapolis, as it does in alternating years, the
party starts long before the game and continues long afterward, especially when the home
It's a tradition at the U.S. Naval Academy, a long-time local landmark with a lengthy list of
prominent graduates, including former President Jimmy Carter.
Annapolis has many claims to fame.
Residents relish their town's history, hospitality, and vitality -- and enjoy proximity not only
to big cities north and west but to quaint St. Michael's, across the bay on Maryland's
eastern shore [the Lady Sarah, a 130-passenger motorized vessel, makes the two-hour
crossing twice a week].
An old seaport that became a sailing center, Annapolis has avoided the pitfalls of
unchecked urban progress. Founded by a group of Virginia Puritans, it was first called
Anne Arundel Town, after Annarundell, wife of Lord Baltimore II, and laid out on a
100-acre tract across the Severn River from the original Puritan settlement of Providence.
The original 1694 town plan called for two circles with radiating streets, creating a
compact historical district sandwiched into an area that embraces one-third of a square
mile. The entire town is a national historic landmark, steeped in history, tradition, and love
of things nautical. Its blend of old houses, new sailboats, and bustling harbor pleases
visitors with cameras.
It was in Annapolis, the first peacetime capital of the United States, that the Congress of
1783-84 ratified the Treaty of Paris, officially ending the Revolutionary War, and accepted
the resignation of George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental army.
Washington also had time for play: in a single night of gaming, he lost 13 pounds, more
than the average farmer's annual income at the time.
Numerous structures Washington knew are still standing, including the King of France
Tavern in the basement of the Maryland Inn and the adjacent Treaty of Paris restaurant.
Annapolis also has three other inns with 200-year-old roots.
In Washington's day, most inns (then called ordinaries) slept five to a bed legally. One of
the better places, which still survives, slept "only" three per bed. Also surviving the
centuries are the homes of all four Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence.
One of them, the William Paca House, has a picturesque pleasure garden that includes
honey-producing bees [the garden's first bottled honey was sold this summer].
Time has been kind to the town, described by some as a museum without walls. Its
concentration of 18th century architecture the nation's highest, with most located a short
distance from a waterfront that has also survived the centuries. Colored plaques posted
near doors indicate the various styles of architecture.
The gray dome of the Maryland State House, dominating a grassy hill overlooking the
town, is the largest wooden structure of its type. The oldest state capitol in continuous
use, it opened in 1779 after seven years of construction.
By then, Thomas Jefferson had already declared the brick sidewalks of Annapolis "the
best in the Colonies" and St. John's College had been open 12 years.
Francis Scott Key, author of The Star-Spangled Banner, was a student at St. John's,
which later served as a Civil War military hospital and prison camp. The college has since
resumed its original mission as a center of learning focused on "the great books."
Reading and writing are as routine in Annapolis as political activity and intellectual
gatherings; more than 900 colleges, universities, and trade schools lie within a 30-mile
radius, giving the region the nation's highest percentage of college graduates. Many wore
The U.S. Naval Academy, the most famous institution in Annapolis, has come a long way
since the school was founded on a 10-acre Severn River site in 1845. The original roster
included seven faculty and 50 midshipmen -- a far cry from the 600 instructors and 4,000
students who share today's 338-acre campus.
The most distinctive building on campus is the green-domed Chapel, a landmark since its
erection in 1905. It contains the crypt of Revolutionary War naval hero John Paul Jones,
who returned a surrender demand with the cry "I have not yet begun to fight."
A walking tour passes pictures of famous graduates, including President Carter, while the
visitors center features 40 exhibits plus the 12-minute film "To Lead and To Serve."
Images, artifacts, and text depict academy history.
That history is interwoven with the town's maritime traditions.
Annapolis sits on a peninsula, with water on three sides. It shares the 8700-mile
Chesapeake Bay shoreline, more than the Atlantic and Pacific coasts combined.
Before the industrial revolution made Baltimore the port city of choice, merchant ships of
every description -- including the slave ship that brought Kunte Kinte of Roots -- docked
at Annapolis. That wasn't always easy, since Captain Kidd, Blackbeard, and other pirates
preyed on Chesapeake Bay shipping.
Bronze statues at the foot of Dock Street depict Roots author Alex Haley reading about
that heritage to curious youngsters.
Well into the 20th century, Annapolis continued to attract passenger-carrying paddlewheel
steamboats, plus fleets of fishing trawlers, crabbers, and skipjacks (the last surviving
sailing ships used to harvest oysters).
With 17 miles of shoreline and water at the end of most of streets, Annapolis still appeals
to recreational boaters who fish, sail, cruise, race, waterski, or go "gunkholing" (exploring
the bay's small caves). Its working waterfront, protected by special zoning codes, includes
the building where PT boats for World War 2 were made. It is now occupied by the Chart
House restaurant. Annapolis shipbuilders were also responsible for the one-time
presidential yacht Sequoia.
The boating legacy is everywhere. In warm weather, there are even "boat & breakfast"
accommodations aboard the Woodwind, a 74-foot sailing schooner, on weekends.
Sightseeing, sunset, moonlight, and nature cruises depart from Annapolis docks and
preparations are underway for a major 'round-the-world yacht race in 1998.
Because Annapolis is basically a small town, getting around is easiest on foot, on the
water, or via escorted tour. In addition to a wide variety of narrated harbor cruises, tours
cover historic homes and gardens, government buildings, ghosts, pirates, general
sightseeing, and local African-American history.
Discover Annapolis Tours runs narrated trolley tours, though photo ops are easier for
those who choose to tour by boat or on foot. Guides in colonial costume conduct two-hour
walking tours that include both the city and the Naval Academy, while tours of the
academy originate at its visitors center.
Bistros, boutiques, and specialty shops -- many with nautical or Chesapeake Bay themes
-- line Main Street and the dock area. There are many spots to sit, sip clam chowder, and
watch the boats slip in and out of the narrow harbor. People-watching is practically a
national pastime in Annapolis, especially from the balconies of the Marriott Annapolis
Waterfront, the only hotel perched right on the water.
There always seems to be something happening in or around the bay. At the end of
October, Annapolis marks Chesapeake Appreciation Days, a festival featuring Maryland
seafood, arts and crafts, live music, educational displays, and skipjack races. The festival,
honoring working watermen, is held at Sandy Point State Park.
From the brick sidewalks to the cobblestone streets and clapboard row houses, every inch
of Annapolis resonates with history. A prime example is Reynolds Tavern, a four-level
structure that stands at Church Circle in the heart of town. An Annapolis landmark since
1747, it is still in active use, as a combination tea room, restaurant, pub, and inn. Most of
the first-floor furnishings are original.
History even lives at the at the Loews Annapolis Hotel, where the Powerhouse ballroom
was once the energy source for local streetcars.
Before streetcars, land transportation was provided by horse -- a heritage not forgotten in
this history-conscious community. Annapolis Carriage runs half-hour, horse-drawn tours
Sunset views are best sampled from the Eastport side of the Severn, reachable by water
taxi from Pusser's Landing, the Marriott's restaurant. Water taxis run frequently but
silently, so getting one is no different than hailing one in the city. Just yell "Taxi!" Once on
the water, however, there's a difference: the ride is calm, serene, and pleasant -- part of
the Annapolis experience. And it costs only $2 a head.
Best bets for dinner in Eastport are Carrol's Creek Café, on Severn Avenue, and
O'Leary's Seafood Restaurant, on nearby Third Street. Guests of both can walk back to
the Marriott by crossing the Severn River drawbridge.
The Mayor of Annapolis and Governor of Maryland are among the local leaders who
frequent a compact-but-bustling Main Street breakfast bistro called Chick & Ruth's Delly.
Both have among the three-dozen celebrities with sandwiches or platters named for them
on the 10-page menu (Golda Meier and George W. Bush are listed too). Owner Ted Levitt
leads customers in the Pledge of Allegiance each morning and, when time permits,
performs tableside magic tricks with coins and dollar bills.
Levitt also operates the 10-room Scotlaur Inn, a 1900-flavored B&B that is one of nearly
three-dozen in town. Although Greater Annapolis has more than 2,000 hotel rooms, space
is tight during when weekends feature festivals, Navy football games or sailing
For further information:
Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference & Visitors Bureau
26 West St., Annapolis, MD 21401
Marriott Annapolis Waterfront
80 Compromise Street, Annapolis, MD 21401
To reach Annapolis by automobile from New York or Philadelphia, follow I-95 south to
I-895 (Harbor Tunnel). Then take U.S. 97 south to U.S. 50 East, getting off at Exit 24
(Rowe Boulevard). Annapolis is 220 miles from New York and 120 miles from Philadelphia.