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Catch up with 374 years of Maryland history on March 30

by Ben Miller

Experience the ebbs and flows of Maryland’s history behind the scenes,” says Carol Benson. Director of Four Rivers Heritage Area, Benson is in the business of historic tourism. On Sunday, March 30, she and fellow local historians hope you’ll become a tourist in your own back yard, celebrating Maryland Day.

On this special day, commemorative events run free from noon to 5pm at historic sites, houses and history museums. Some private residences are open to the public for this one day only, making March 30 your day to reconnect with the happenings of Maryland’s 374 years.

Through History’s Binoculars

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” said William Faulkner. The Nobel Prize-winning writer’s perception can inform our own views of what we see every day.

As we walk or drive around Chesapeake Country, or look out our windows, we can see how people from the past and their decisions on how to live and how to work have sculpted our environment, have written our laws and have shaped how we think and feel about the issues before us today.

Maryland Day gives us a template to look again at our roads, our open spaces, our buildings, even what we see looking over Chesapeake Bay. Look through history’s binoculars, and you’ll see how what we experience today is heavily influenced, if not determined, by what the past has provided.

In the Beginning

Maryland Day is a state holiday commemorating March 25, 1634, the day settlers from the ships the Ark and the Dove held a Mass of Thanksgiving on St. Clement’s Island in Chesapeake Bay, thus marking the formal beginning of the Maryland colony.

The ships had arrived a few days before. Their leader, Leonard Calvert, had sailed up the Bay to meet with the Piscataway Indian chief to negotiate a peace accord. When Calvert returned, the grateful settlers celebrated on St. Clement’s Island.

Jean Russo, historian with the Historic Annapolis Foundation, corrects a misconception about Maryland Day.

“The major misunderstanding is to think that it’s the day on which colonists either arrived in Maryland or first stepped ashore,” said Russo.

It was instead the date of the celebratory mass.

The State Board of Education established March 25 as Maryland Day in 1903 as a day for schools to honor Maryland history. The General Assembly authorized Maryland Day as a state holiday in 1916.

Annapolis Maritime Museum

723 Second St. and Creek View Dr., Eastport

“Stories of life on the water that are part of our culture and identity,” are the subjects of Annapolis Maritime Museum, according to curator Heather Ersts. The museum’s family-friendly Maryland Day event focuses on the state boat, the skipjack, and the state reptile, the diamondback terrapin.

Board and tour the museum’s own skipjack the Lydia D and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Stanley Norman. Buy a skipjack model (six inches long) with real sail cloth and a movable boom by model-maker Hugh Gribben (cost: $1).

Meet terrapins face to face. Learn a story about Maryland’s fishing (and over-fishing) heritage and the need to preserve the places such creatures live.

“Children are intrigued by this animal that is not here for us, that has its own place and is not here for our benefit,” says Marguerite Whilden of the Terrapin Institute.

Learn the effect of marine debris (junk) on the animals that live in and around Chesapeake Bay from the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue group.

The Banneker-Douglass Museum

84 Franklin St., Annapolis

The history, heartaches and contributions of African Americans in Maryland are the subjects of the Banneker-Douglass Museum highlights.

See the new exhibit of archeological artifacts unearthed in Annapolis and learn the stories they tell. Some of the artifacts demonstrate that the people brought forcibly to Maryland shores had not left behind the customs and traditions of Africa. Create quilt symbols representing Maryland’s link with Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.

Capital City Colonials

at Hard Bean Coffee and Booksellers, 36 Market Space, Annapolis

See historic Annapolis through the eyes of professional, costumed interpreters. Sign up on a first-come basis for free mini-walking tours at 1, 2 and 3pm. Each tour is limited to 15 people.

Capt. Salem Avery House Museum

1418 East West Shady Dr., Shady Side: 1-4pm

Visit the 19th century home of a Chesapeake Bay buy-boat captain. Tour the house with costumed interpreters. Learn the history of tea in America, and see displays of tea sets. Girls dress in period-style clothing and play games their great-great-grandmothers played.

The Shady Side Rural Heritage Society sponsors the museum and this event. On its new dock, you’ll get a beautiful view of the West and Rhode rivers and Chesapeake Bay, the highways of Maryland history.

Charles Carroll House

107 Duke of Gloucester St., Annapolis

Explore the home of a member of colonial Maryland’s most prominent and richest Catholic family — the Carrolls — with a new self-guided tour and enjoy its beautiful location on the banks of Spa Creek. Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born here. The house contains a chapel, built back when Catholics were forbidden by law to worship in public.

The Chesapeake Children’s Museum

25 Silopanna Rd. (off Spa Rd.), Annapolis

In this diverse, interactive museum, adults join kids for play and a nature hike to learn the plants Indians used for medicine and cooking.

Discover Annapolis Trolley Tours

History Quest, 99 Main St., Annapolis

Hop aboard one of Annapolis’ touring trolleys to see and hear about historic Annapolis in comfort. This easy way to get oriented to a historic city is free to everyone today — and always free to Anne Arundel County residents.

Galesville Heritage Museum

988 Main St., Galesville: 1-4pm

Take time for a rural experience in Galesville. While trade and politics occupied the rising colonial city of Annapolis, people in the village of Galesville and the surrounding countryside grew tobacco, built boats, hunted ducks and fished.

See photos and artifacts representing this vanishing way of life in rural Southern Maryland.

Talk to locals including historian and retired businessman Jack Smith, who has lived there all his life.

Hammond-Harwood House

King George St. and Maryland Ave., Annapolis

Visit a house sketched by Thomas Jefferson in 1783 and featured in a recent book Houses of the Founding Fathers, The Men Who Made America And The Way They Lived, by Hugh Howard. Decide whether the front door is indeed “the most beautiful doorway in America.” Meet a costumed reenactor who talks about the fur trade with Indians on the frontier (western Maryland) during the 1700s. Set out on a mini-walking tour with the Capital City Colonials from here.

Historic London Town & Gardens

839 Londontown Rd., Edgewater: 1-4pm

Visit a vanished town that rivaled Annapolis as a tobacco port in the early colony. Tour the William Brown House, the historic area and the gardens as guides and brochures help you envision a time when the place bustled with activity. Learn how to cook a seven-course dinner in a fireplace hearth (and not get burned.)

Learn why in the years before the American Revolution some towns died and others thrived.

“Annapolis was not the only town or city in Maryland during colonial times vying for importance and prosperity,” says the London Town’s Rod Cofield.

Upper Marlboro, Oxford, Chestertown, St. Mary’s and even Herrington (near present-day Herrington Harbour North) competed for trade and prominence.

HistoryQuest at St. Clair Wright Building

99 Main St., Annapolis

Orient yourself to the rich history of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County through exhibits, artifacts and films. You’ll gain an appreciation of how the preservation of so many old and beautiful buildings has produced a unique and irreplaceable resource.

Meet children’s book authors who share their love of Maryland’s heritage with their readers, 10am-4:30pm.

• Ann Jensen: The World Turned Upside Down: Children of 1776 and Leonard Calvert and the Maryland Adventure: 10-11:30am.

• Carroll Harrison Kehne Jr.: Buried Treasure, A Pirate’s Tale: Noon-2pm.

• Jennifer Keats Curtis: Osprey Adventure: 2:30-4:30pm.

Jonas Green House

124 Charles St., Annapolis

Pay a visit to Randy and Dede Brown in one of the oldest homes in Annapolis.

“Opening my house for Maryland Day will be another chance to show off this very simple but authentic Annapolis treasure,” said Randy Brown.

He is the seventh generation to live in this house and a direct descendant of Jonas and Anne Catherine Green, printers, who lived there in 1738, when parts of the house were already 40 years old.

“My mother’s name was Eleanor Green,” says Brown. “She said that she never got married, just changed colors.”

The lack of change over the generations is a preservationist’s dream.

“My five great-grandparents could walk into this house,” says Brown, “and they’d recognize the house room for room.”

Kunte Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation

at Hard Bean Coffee and Booksellers, 36 Market Space, Annapolis

Find your roots. Take your questions about your family history and the information you have to genealogists of the Kunte Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation. They will help you conduct a computer search through history and genealogical databases to explore the lives of the people who came before you.

Lost Towns Project

at William Paca House and Garden, 186 Prince George St., Annapolis

Discover buried history from archeologists from the Lost Towns Project. Towns and villages of Native Americans once occupied the woods, fields and shorelines of Anne Arundel County. They may lie under our homes and roads. Ask the archeologists what they know and how they know it, and learn about life here 2,000 years ago.

Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts

801 Chase St., Annapolis

Get in touch with your own creativity through the works of others at Maryland Hall.

See how muralist Sy Mohr depicts people and their cultures throughout the world in an exhibit opening today.

Discuss art and browse in the studios of Maryland Hall’s five artists in-residence: Bonnie Roth Anderson, Mary J. Arthur, Phil Gurlik, Kristine Kowalski and Rob Levit.

Ask writers and painters about their creative processes and work habits during a book-signing event:

• Mildred Bottner Anderson, A Piece of History: Barns, Bridges, Churches, Gardens, Houses and Landmarks of Maryland.

• Lee Boynton, Painting the Impressionist Watercolor.

• George M. Callaghan: Herons Poynte.

• Thea Lindauer: There Must Be An Ocean Between Us: Letters of Separation and Survival.

• Dr. Jackson Bryer, Dearest Scott, Dearest Zelda — The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

The Sands House

130 Prince George St., Annapolis: 1-4pm

Take your kids to visit the first public opening of a lived-in home.

“It has been in my family since 1771,” says historian-writer Ann Jensen.

“It was originally an ordinary, or tavern, owned by John and Ann Sands at the time of the Revolution. Their oldest son, William, was a member of the First Maryland Regiment and died with 400 other Marylanders in the Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776.

“The house contains many of the things owned by John and Ann Sands and subsequent descendants. Many of these things are displayed and used today.”

Jensen, the author of The World Turned Upside Down, used as a teaching resource in a number of Maryland schools, said children will enjoy seeing unique objects and the house they have read about in the book.

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Today at William Paca House and Garden, 186 Prince George St., Annapolis

Learn about the programs, the research that tells scientists about Chesapeake Bay and the opportunities to experience nature at this hidden gem on the Rhode River in Anne Arundel County.

State House Visitor Center

State Circle, Annapolis

See where the American Revolution ended at the oldest state capitol in continuous legislative use. Costumed interpreters show you where George Washington appeared before the Continental Congress to resign his commission from the Continental Army on December 23, 1783. Here too, less than one month later, the Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris on January 14, 1784, bringing an official end to the war and recognizing the United States of America as a sovereign nation.

The State House closes for restoration on April 8, reopening in January, 2009.

U.S. Naval Academy Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center

Inside Gate 1, 52 King George St., Annapolis

In Annapolis, the United States Navy has trained midshipmen to be naval officers since 1845. Learn the history and how midshipmen are trained today through exhibits and films. Join a walking tour leaving every half-hour. Bring a photo ID for admission.

Waterfront Warehouse

4 Pinkney St., Annapolis

Visit a tobacco warehouse, a remnant of the trade that made Annapolis a prominent port in the 1700s. Envision 18th century Annapolis through the miniature model of the dock area as it was 200 years ago.

Watermark Cruises

Information Booth, Annapolis City Dock

Join a Walk with the Colonials tour as professional guides in period dress reveal an Annapolis hidden in plain sight.

• 1pm: Haunted Ghost Tour (90 minutes).

• 2pm African-American Heritage Tour (2 hours).

• 3:30pm Three Centuries Walking Tour (2 hours).

William Paca House and Garden

186 Prince George St., Annapolis

Visit a magnificent mansion built by a patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence and restored by the Historic Annapolis Foundation in time for the Bicentennial in 1976. See what daily life was like in a rich person’s house in the 1700s.

“We are holding special Colonial kitchen tours, where visitors can meet living history characters such as the Paca family’s enslaved cook or indentured servants and learn about their lives as members of the household,” says Historic Annapolis Foundation’s Maria Day.

Children can run outside in the two-acre formal garden where volunteers organize a scavenger hunt and other games and activities.

Mark Your Calendar

Mark your calendars for Sunday, March 30. It’s a special day for celebrating our history. And it’s all free, so you won’t soon see so much at such a good price.

The people at the historic sites are eager to see you.

“The sites are getting ready for the season and they want local visitors,” says Four Rivers’ Carol Benson. “They want people to be more connected to the staff and to their own heritage.”

Historic Annapolis Foundation’s Maria Day welcomes you, too. “I hope everyone takes this opportunity to explore some of the history that is down the street or around the block from where they live,” she says.

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