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To Plan A Trip

May 2024
1min read

Ricketts Hall, just inside the gate, is where most visitors start their tour of the Academy. Here they can see an enlightening video about the midshipmen’s four-year experience, study a diorama of the Yard, and if they are so inclined, sign up for an informative onehour-and-ten-minute official tour at a cost of three dollars. Similar tours of the Academy and other sites are run by Historic Annapolis Tours and Three Centuries Tours of Annapolis.

Within a few blocks’ radius of the Academy are a number of other imperatives for the history-oriented traveler. Three superb Georgian houses are open to the public, two only a few steps from the Academy’s Maryland Avenue gate: the Hammond-Harwood House, at 19 Maryland Avenue, and the Chase-Lloyd House, just across the street. The latter was the home of Samuel Chase, the controversial patriot, master of invective, Supreme Court justice, and (probably) crook, who accumulated more enemies than any other American politician until Richard Nixon. The house is one of the masterpieces of colonial America’s best architect, William Buckland. Also not to be missed is the William Paca House, on nearby Prince George Street, the thirty-seven-room mansion of the Continental Congress member William Paca. The gardens alone are worth the detour.

The stately dome of the Maryland State House towers over the city and the Academy. The Continental Congress met here from November 26, 1783, to June 3, 1784. So many famous names paraded along Maryland Avenue during this sojourn it became known as Patriot’s Walk. (In later years the midshipmen renamed it “Robbers’ Row” because it was lined with shops that flagrantly overcharged them.) Gen. George Washington resigned his commission on December 23, 1783, in the Old Senate Chamber on the first floor of the State House. The room has been carefully preserved.

On January 14, 1784, in this same room, congressmen ratified the Treaty of Paris, ending the long war. Over the fireplace is a fine portrait of Washington at Yorktown painted by Charles Willson Peale. The great man is flanked by Lafayette and the general’s faithful aide, Maryland’s own Tench Tilghman.

Annapolis is no longer the forgotten tobacco port that the Academy’s first fifty-six midshipmen approached with dismay and foreboding in 1845. Superhighways connecting it to Baltimore and Washington, D.C., have created a real estate boom. Elegant restaurants, new hotels, and clothing and antiques stores line the streets.

All these things are welcome fillips to the traveler. But even the mementos of Annapolis’s Revolutionary days dwindle in comparison with the Naval Academy. There American history acquires a global reach, and more than two million visitors ramble across the Yard every year.

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