The Old State House

Old State House

The present Maryland State House is actually the third one to stand on State Circle in Annapolis. The first state house was built soon after the capital of Maryland was moved from St. Mary's City to Annapolis in 1695. This first state house burned down in 1704. The second state house on State Circle was completed in 1709 and, within 60 years, had become much too small for the colony's growing government and was too delapidated to warrant renovation. It was torn down and construction on the new state house was begun in 1772, with Joseph Horatio Anderson as architect and Mr. Wallace as the "undertaker."

Work on the third state house was begun in 1772 and first occupied in 1779. However, by 1784 the building was already in need of work: the roof leaked and the cupola was described as inadequate, unimpressive and too small for the building. By 1788, the roof had been replaced, the old cupola had been taken off and the exterior of the dome we see today had been completed. The interior, with its beautiful plasterwork, was finished by 1795. The architect of the dome was Joseph Clark.

The jewel of this new State House was the Old Senate Chamber, where the Continental Congress met while Annapolis was the capital of the United States from November 1783 - August 1784. This room was restored in 1906 to how it may have appeared at the end of the 18th century. It featured a mannequin of George Washington dressed as he was when he resigned his commission on December 23, 1783 in this room. The room also featured Charles Willson Peale's celebrated portrait of Washington, Lafayette and Tilghman at Yorktown which was commissioned by the General Assembly in 1781 and completed in 1784. The President's desk as well as some of the other desks and chairs in the room were original pieces made for the State House in 1796-7 by Annapolis cabinetmaker John Shaw.

In late 2007, historic preservation investigations were begun to determine the source of failing plaster and paint in the chamber. The result has been the removal of all of the paint and plaster, revealing the original 18th century bricks and mortar. These investigations have also uncovered "ghosts" of probable 18th century decorative plasterwork and other features of the room. This research is being used to restore the room as closely as possible to its 18th century appearance and it will be reopened in late 2014.

The two rooms to the right of the Old Senate Chamber are the Stairwell Room and the Old Senate Committee Room. Both of these rooms are also undergoing restoration and will reopen at the end of 2014. The Stairwell Room contains two sets of stairs: one to the "ladies balcony" above the Old Senate Chamber where women in the 18th and 19th centuries were allowed to watch proceedings in the chamber. The other set of stairs originally went to what is now the governor's office but was, in the early days of the building, the jury room. It is now a staircase to nowhere.

The last room on the right in the old State House is the Archives Room which contains the State House Visitor Center, as well as an exhibit about the evolution of the State House and State Circle over the centuries. This room was designated in 1858 as the repository for the state's records and was made fireproof. One can also see in this room the 18th century outside wall of the original building.

Across the Rotunda is the Old House of Delegates Chamber, a re-creation of the late 19th century, high Victorian chamber where the House of Delegates met until 1905.