History + Culture
In 1649, a colony of Puritan exiles settled a patch of land in the New World that would become the city of Annapolis. By the late 17th century, the city—then named Anne Arundel’s Town—was home to most of the 25,000 residents of the Province of Maryland. Nearly four centuries later, about 40,000 residents call Annapolis home; while much has changed, the Maryland state capital (and once-national capital!) maintains its historic charm. The city was built to mimic the baroque street plans of the European capitals, and the historic downtown area features centuries-old brightly-painted rowhomes on narrow brick-lined streets. Take a walk or bike ride through the district or nearby Historic London Town and relive the history. Oh, and did we mention George Washington had dinner here?
Did you know that four of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence had homes in Annapolis—that are still standing? This city is where the Treaty of Paris was ratified in 1763, where George Washington resigned his commission in 1783, and where major changes to the Articles of the Confederation were discussed in 1786. Named by Royal Governor Sir Francis Nicholson for Princess Anne (who later became Queen of England), Annapolis represents four centuries of history and architecture, from the original 1695 street plan to the mix of Colonial, Georgian, and Victorian homes lining the streets—many with historical markers.
For a little city, Annapolis is home to a lot of museums. There’s the United States Naval Academy Museum, home to a comprehensive history of the Navy and the Marines; the Banneker-Douglass Museum, named for scientist and mathematician Benjamin Banneker and abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass, which shares the history of the African American experience in Maryland (Harriet Tubman and Thurgood Marshall were born here!); the waterfront Annapolis Maritime Museum, where visitors can learn about the ecology and history of the Chesapeake Bay on foot or by boat; and a number of houses that are now historical sites, including the William Paca House, Hammond-Harwood House, and Chase Home. Be sure to check out Historic London Town & Gardens, too—a time capsule of life in the 1700s about 20 minutes from campus.
While you can learn a lot about Annapolis just by walking around, one of the best ways to get to know the campus is through the many walking (and boat!) tours available. You’ll probably see folks walking around State Circle in Colonial garb; they’re not crazy, they’re tour guides. Grab some friends and sign up for a guided historical tour, a historic ghost walk, the African American Heritage Tour in February, or the Holiday Candlelight Stroll in December.
Because it’s the largest tributary in the United States, the Chesapeake Bay is the subject of extensive ecological study, with environmental scientists tracking everything from fish populations and the health of aquatic vegetation to the breeding patterns of the area’s iconic oysters and blue crabs. The health of the Bay is incredibly important to Marylanders, and you’ll probably see plenty of “Save the Bay” bumper stickers on cars around town. After all, it’s a major driver of the state’s economy—and it’s pretty beautiful, too.