view counter

The High Points of Annapolis

How well do you know your capital skyline?

The skyline in Annapolis tells the facts of city life: the story of our 350-year history as a political center where great things happen, a religious center for the Church of England and the Catholic Church, the birthplace of our Navy, a center of education and an architectural gem.
    On land, our spires are subtle monuments to power, hope and inspiration. Architect John Evelyn, who inspired Gov. Francis Nicholson’s plan for Annapolis in 1695, wrote “not all need to be square but some oblong, circular and oval for their better grace and capacity.” Over the years, architects heeded his advice, creating a variety of styles: Gothic revival, Romanesque, Italianate and Christopher Wren’s onion-shaped Baroque domes.
    Entering the city via King George Street, you see a mirage-like image of six spires, cupolas and domes announcing the town beyond.
    The domes top the State House and the Naval Academy Chapel. Spires top St Anne’s Church and St. Mary’s Church. Cupolas top McDowell Hall at St. John’s College, the U.S. Post Office, and the State Treasury building.
    Spires, cupolas and domes breathe life into the city’s streetscapes.

Photo Quiz

Put these Annapolis landmarks in their place

1. The dome of the nation’s oldest working capitol

2. The cupola of McDowell Hall at St. John’s College was completed in the 1770s and is topped by the city’s oldest cupola and bell tower.

3. St. Anne’s Romanesque steeple built in 1866 on the city’s oldest church, founded 1692, displays the town clock.

4. The U.S. Post Office on Church Circle displays a cupola built in 1908.

5. St. Mary’s Gothic spire was built 150 years ago on land owned by Charles Carroll.

6. Under the copper dome of the Chapel U.S. Naval Academy Chapel, restored in 2009, is the crypt of John Paul Jones.

7. State Treasury Building on Calvert Street is topped by one of the city’s newest cupolas, built in the 1950s.

    Cross the Eastport Bridge, and your eye is captured by the gothic spire of St Mary’s Church, founded in 1853 by the Catholic order of Redemptorist priests. The church shares its space with the historic Charles Carroll House, home of the colony’s wealthiest Catholic family. Forbidden to vote because of his religion, Charles Carroll, nevertheless, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence who shaped the vision of the new nation in the Constitution.
    In the distance, you glimpse the slender spire of St. Anne’s Romanesque steeple, speaking to the power of celestial hope in domination of the view east on West Street. Historic St. Anne’s was founded in 1692 as one of the original 30 Anglican parishes in the province of Maryland. In 1704, Queen Anne herself donated the church bell that called parishioners to service until the fire of 1858. A new steeple was completed in 1866 and is home of the city clock, ordered in that year as the timekeeper for merchants and the railroad.
    Placed on the city’s highest hill, the State House is a cultural focal point, its dome dominating our views from all directions. This fall, you’ll see the wood State House dome beneath net and scaffolding as it is painted and repaired to weather its fourth century.
    In 2009, the Naval Academy Chapel designed by Ernest Flagg was also restored. Under the copper dome built in 1908, a 20-foot skylight plastered over for decades was discovered and refitted. The chapel seats 2,500 people and houses the crypt of John Paul Jones, a father of the U.S. Navy.
    Just blocks away, sitting midway between the State House and the Naval Academy, is the centerpiece of St John’s College, McDowell Hall. Begun in 1742 as a home for the governor but completed 40 years later for the college, it holds the oldest of the city’s famous cupolas. Cupolas may once have been used like a spyglass to search the waterways for ships, but in later years they had another practical purpose: ventilation.
    The U.S. Post Office, and the State Treasury later adorned their roofs with cupolas, too: the Post Office in 1908 and the Treasury a half-century later.
Photo Quiz
Put these Annapolis landmarks in their place

1. The dome of the nation’s oldest working capitol
2. The cupola of McDowell Hall at St. John’s College was completed in the 1770s and is topped by the city’s oldest cupola and bell tower.
3. St. Anne’s Romanesque steeple built in 1866 on the city’s oldest church, founded 1692, displays the town clock.
4. The U.S. Post Office on Church Circle displays a cupola built in 1908.
5. St. Mary’s Gothic spire was built 150 years ago on land owned by Charles Carroll.
6. Under the copper dome of the Chapel U.S. Naval Academy Chapel, restored in 2009, is the crypt of John Paul Jones.
7. State Treasury Building on Calvert Street is topped by one of the city’s newest cupolas, built in the 1950s.