Thank you Mrs. Glendening.
If these walls could only talk,
what we might learn about the business of government and the lives of the people who lived here or who came to visit.
In the 300 years since Annapolis became the capital of Maryland there have been two official residences of the Governor, this building, and one formerly on the Naval Academy grounds which the State confiscated from the last Proprietary Governor, Sir Robert Eden, in 1781. There had been an earlier attempt to build a residence on what is today St. John's College Campus, but a dispute between the governor and the legislature halted construction before it was completed. Eventually the foundations and walls were given to St. Johns and incorporated into McDowell Hall, and no governor ever lived there.
The Naval Academy residence, known as Government House, was the part-time home of Maryland Governors from 1781 until the first version of this building was constructed between 1868 and 1870. I say first version, because in 1936, under Governor Harry Whinna Nice the Victorian building on this site was transformed into a Georgian townhouse similar to the Brice House on East Street. If you look closely you can see elements of the old house still, especially from the garden where the fountain intentionally was placed to compliment the Victorian bay window.
Government House was the first official name given to the public home of the Governor, and, in an effort to call attention to the important public role the building plays in the business of government, Mrs. Glendening has not only asked that the name be offically changed to more accurately reflect that role, but she has also recommended enlarging the Government House Trust to include greater public participation in the oversight of the public rooms.
Even though the walls cannot talk, it is possible to bring into Government House a glimpse of its history through such exhibits as the one you will be introduced to by Mrs. Glendening this afternoon. There could be no more fitting tribute to the public nature of this house than to celebrate the lives of those wives and official hostesses who have presided at so many public functions that are held here, both ceremonial, such as the visits of Mark Twain or the Queen Mother, or working sessions, such as the many dinners and meetings that promote economic development for the state, or help the Governor present his executive and legislative agenda.
When Mrs. Glendening began to review the inventory of the available art in the State's collection which Elaine Rice and Mimi Calver of the Archives staff had prepared, she came upon the listing of portraits of First Ladies and Official Hostesses.
She asked to see the portraits and was intrigued by the story they could begin to tell. Even with the few portraits we had, she felt we could easily stimulate public interest in the lives of the many women who were responsible for much of what was accomplished here, sometimes in supportive roles, and, at other times as independent partners with careers of their own.
As Mrs. Glendening pointed out, the State's collection is a small one. Although individual items were acquired from time to time, the first effort at creating a collection devoted to First Ladies and Official hostesses was begun by Mrs. Tawes in 1961. Initially the portraits were paid for out of appropriated funds, but more recently they have been commissioned from private funds raised by non-profit groups.
It is Mrs. Glendening's hope that by calling attention to the few portraits we do have, that additional portraits and photographs will be found, and that we will be able to enrich the documentary record of those who worked here.
Mrs. Glendening mentioned the recent acquisition of a photograph of the first First Lady to live here, Mrs. Bowie. Yesterday afternoon we learned that there is a portrait of the wife of Governor Howard (1831-1833) who was herself the daughter of a governor. She was the first governor's daughter to marry a governor, but not the last. We have also discovered that Governor Kent's daughter married Governor Thomas Pratt (1845-1848). Then there is the daughter of Governor Thomas King Carroll, Anna Ella Carroll, who charmed Annapolis during her father's term and went on to write persuasive legal briefs for President Abraham Lincoln.
That we know so little about the people who worked and lived here, and still have so much to learn, only reinforces Mrs. Glendening's point that for too long we have neglected the role that women have played in the public and private world of government. To better understand that role and to help us better comprehend why it has changed so dramatically in recent times, we can look close to home, to this house and to the First Ladies and Official Hostesses who worked here. Perhaps the walls can begin to talk afterall.
. Return to Mrs. Glendening's Remarks
Portraits of First Ladies & Official Hostesses Exhibit
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