Historic Inns of Annapolis Celebrate 250 Years

By Steve Adams

In a city as historic as Annapolis, structures celebrating notable anniversaries are as common as colonially clad tour guides and Maryland state flags bearing the Calvert and Crossland family coat of arms. The Maryland State House, for example, recently eclipsed 240 years of age, while the United States Naval Academy hit its 175th in 2020. 

Much rarer, however, are businesses that hit the century—or, for that matter, multi-century—mark. 

But Historic Inns of Annapolis has, and is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year—meaning that, YES, it was founded in an awe-inspiring, pre-independence 1772: the year that Thomas Hyde, a well-known Annapolis merchant, acquired a long-term lease on a lot at the top of Main Street and built the front portion of what is now the Maryland Inn.

The Historic Inns of Annapolis have had a longtime impact on local tourism and commerce. “Historic Inns of Annapolis has done a stellar job of maintaining three striking 18th-century properties that grace the streets of historic downtown Annapolis,” says Kristen Pironis, executive director of Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County. “Their consistent level of hospitality has become synonymous with the gracious welcome visitors to Annapolis have come to expect from Maryland’s capital city.” 

If only those walls could talk. The 250th highlights the Inns’ place in the history of not only Annapolis but also the country–and the group will be offering the public plenty of opportunities to learn more with special events being held at the Maryland Inn and the Governor Calvert. 

“Obviously over the 250 years there have been multiple owners and uses of the Maryland Inn and our other two buildings … but what hasn’t changed is their place in the history of Annapolis and even America,” says Director of Sales & Marketing Michelle Vellon. “We also know how much people love taking a step back in time, especially when visiting or living in a state and town that has been around since the start, so we want to help both guests and the public do that through our properties during such a special year.”

The inns will be marking the milestone by offering deals to guests, such as a discount up to 17.72 percent when staying at one of its three properties—the Maryland Inn, the Governor Calvert House, and the Johnson House—and the Forefathers Anniversary Special, including food, beverage and room discounts for group events and bookings.

Here’s a quick look at their upcoming special events this year:

Maryland Inn Open House, Friday, March 25

Beginning on Maryland Day, the Maryland Inn welcomes spring and celebrates the state by opening its doors for tours of the areas “where our forefathers have been” – including the new King of France Tavern, which has already reopened as a private event space available for booking, and the entrance to the historical tunnel that leads from it to the State House. 

“We are still working on the details, but the goal of the open house is to give people a glimpse of parts of the Maryland Inn that hold so much history but remain off limits except to hotel guests,” said Vellon. “We want to give people the chance to the see the Victorian details on the main lobby level and the more “colonial” feel of the basement level. And who wouldn’t want to see the former entrance to a tunnel that was used by some of Annapolis’ and the country’s leaders and founding fathers a couple centuries ago?”

Tours are free and will be offered throughout the weekend, but visitors will need to call ahead to make reservations: 410-263-2641.

Wedding Fair, Sunday, March 27, noon-3pm, The Governor Calvert House

Returning after being canceled in previous years due to COVID, “the only Downtown Annapolis bridal show” will give attendees the opportunity to meet and receive expert advice from a wide array of local wedding vendors and planners, win prizes, and sample cakes and gourmet food inside “the most popular wedding venue in Annapolis.”

Vellon calls the show “the place to find the ideas, décor, and extraordinary food options that will allow you to create a unique wedding experience amid the charming backdrop of downtown Annapolis history,” Vendors currently includes Blue Crab Cupcakes, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Varuna Aveda Salon, Fantastic Flowers, My Flower Box, Fabrication Events, Rentals to Remember, Bay Strings, C and J Entertainment, Crow Entertainment, Editing Life Videography, Hamilton Photography, Kate Fine Art, Cink Art, and Travel Bug (just to name a few).

Tickets can be purchased for $15 in advance, at https://historicinnsweddingfair.eventbrite.com, or at the door for $18. 

Miss Peg’s Parlor Unveiling, April (Date TBD), The Governor Calvert House

Though final details are still in the works, next month Historic Inns staff and Remington Hotels management will unveil a plaque and deliver remarks dedicating the Calvert House Parlor to Ms. Peg, the inns’ longest-serving employee, and reopen its doors under its new name, “Miss Peg’s Parlor” in honor of her 50 years of service. 

Known as “the grand dame of Maryland hospitality” (by hospitality industry peers and organizations), the “hostess of Annapolis” (by many guests, but especially by Naval Academy parents and alumni), and “House Mother” (by legislators and their staff), Peg “Ms. Peg” Bednarsky began her career as a temporary desk clerk and switchboard operator at the Maryland Inn in 1969. She rose through the ranks to quickly become the innkeeper of all three properties in 1975, and distinguished herself by treating one-time guests and drop-in tourists just as well as longtime legislators, many of whom slept most weeknights of the 90-day legislative session at the hotels. Doing so on a daily basis, 24/7/365, led to Bednarsky receiving a host of professional awards and accolades throughout her career—including being named the Tourism Person of the Year by the Maryland Tourism Council and the Innkeeper/Manager of the Year twice by the Maryland Hotel & Lodging Association and receiving a lifetime achievement award for her “long-term extraordinary service and dedication to the lodging and tourism industry.” Bednarsky retired in July 2019 and died Jan. 7, 2022, just a few months too soon to see the parlor renamed in her honor.

“Ms. Peg was a wonder to watch with people,” said Vellon. “Her ability to greet people and act like she knew exactly who they all were and instantly make them feel at home is something you don’t see in hospitality much anymore. So all of my favorite stories about the inns involve Ms. Peg’s interactions with governors and legislators and guests.”

“So, with all that in mind, upon Ms. Peg’s retirement we decided that it would be incredibly fitting to have the first room that guests and employees see be named after the person who greeted thousands of guests in a manner that’s become synonymous with the hotel.”

Chef’s Table, June 23, The Governor Calvert House

For those lucky enough to be on the list, Historic Inns’ VIP clients will be invited to dine on delectable farm-to-table eats and imbibe signature historical drinks at the Calvert House on one celebratory night in June.  

However, the hoi polloi will also be able to enjoy some of these new drinks that night at the Drummer’s Lot Pub, where drummer William Butterfield conveyed the news of the day to the people of Annapolis through a variety of complex drum beats.

250th Anniversary Gala, September 7, The Governor Calvert House

Another invite-only event, this black-tie gala will feature dinner, drinks, and dancing plus the presentation of proclamations from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Historic Hotels of America to celebrate HIA’s big year.

Chef’s Table Dinner & Ghost Tour, October 20, The King of France Tavern at The Maryland Inn

Timed with the approach of both cooler temps and Halloween, Supper & Spook Night will offer the public the opportunity to dine off of a historical dinner menu in the newly-remodeled King of France Tavern, an historic spot where Annapolitans were the first to hear of the ratification of the Treaty of Paris which, as any good history student will remember, officially ended the Revolutionary War in 1784, and would later listen to great jazz music from the likes of Charlie Byrd in the 1970s. Stay for ghost stories delivered by an expert guide while walking the cobblestone streets of Annapolis by candlelight. 

Historic Inns Holiday Market, Thursdays in December, The Maryland Inn

HIA will end its yearlong celebration by participating in one of Annapolis’s favorite modern traditions, Midnight Madness. Held on the three nights of the annual late-night shopping event, The Maryland Inn Holiday Market will offer the public the opportunity to purchase gifts from local artists and craftsmen, sample cocktails at the Drummer’s Lot, and, of course, take a picture with Santa.

“Being here as long as we have been, we’re a part of not only Annapolis’s history but so many individual’s history,” says Vellon. “Over the years I have talked to countless people who remember coming here as kids, attending their USNA Dining Out here, having their wedding or rehearsal dinner at the Maryland Inn or Calvert House, or staying here on their wedding night. We know that for many people we’re not just a hotel, but a home away from home, and that’s something really special, something we don’t take for granted. And 2022 is all about celebrating that.”

The hypocaust room at the Governor Calvert House.

For a bit more Governor Calvert House history…

Look through a transparent floor at the 1720s-era bricks that were part of a highly-innovative hypocaust (a hollow space under the floor of building into which hot air was sent for heating) for the Calvert family greenhouse—a structure filled with exotic plants, such as orange and lemon trees, that not only expressed wealth but also the knowledge of natural law through the control of water, heat, and light required by horticulture. 

Visitors will also be able to read about and view artifacts discovered during an excavation of the hypocaust room– papers, eggshells, jewelry, wooden toys, shoe buckles, and fine tea ware— led by Archaeology in Annapolis co-director Anne Yentsch, hotel owner Paul Pearson, and Historic Annapolis Foundation founder St. Clair Wright in 1982, 1983, and 1984.