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Friday, November 10, 2000 - 6:00am by Lolo
55 miles and 1.25 hours from our last stop
Annapolis was the only time this trip that we left the Eastern Shore and ventured across the Chesapeake to its western shore. As always when visiting an old city, our first obstacle was finding parking for the motorhome. Old historic cities with their narrow streets are difficult with a car, but next to impossible in a motorhome. Therefore, rather than even attempt to drive into the heart of the historic district, we found a big lot near St. John’s college and walked from there.
I was a bit of a woman on a mission. I’ve been accused by my family of being somewhat obsessive in my trip planning and not the most receptive to changes to my itinerary. Oh, yeah, well let’s see them plan a trip! Anyway, today I had it fixed in my mind that we go to the Naval Academy in time to watch the noon formation, where all the midshipmen lined up in full dress uniform and then marched into the dining hall for their lunch. After all, my Frommer’s guide said this was a must see, and who am I to question Frommer’s. So, I marched the family rapidly through the streets of Annapolis, through the Gates of the Academy, and into the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center with 20 minutes to spare. I then approached a woman sitting behind the counter and asked her where we should go to see the noon formation. “There is no formation today in observance of Veteran’s Day,” she calmly informed me. I turned towards Herb with a crazed look on my face and said, “They’re not marching today!” I felt very much like Chevy Chase when he arrived at Wally World only to find that it was closed. Fortunately, there were no guns in sight, or I would have been tempted to make them march. I also had a feeling that Herb and the boys were more amused by my reaction than disappointed with missing the formation. I should have made them line up in formation and march.
Instead we browsed through the exhibits in the visitor center, which showed what it was like to be a midshipmen (that’s what they call students here). During a brief stop in the gift shop, Tommy called me over and had me peer into one of those little gadgets that you hold up to the light and see photographs in. I found myself staring at a photograph of midshipmen lined up for noon formation. Very funny.
We wandered around the lovely campus for awhile, much of which lies along the pretty Severn River. Probably our favorite site on campus was the very impressive Navy Chapel, with its stained-glass windows made by Tiffany and a copper dome so high that it can be seen throughout Annapolis. The interior was equally spectacular. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it, but John Paul Jones, the first U.S. naval hero, is buried in a crypt beneath the sanctuary. His sarcophagus is made from 21 tons of Pyrenees marble and is supported by bronze dolphins.
After the Academy, we walked over to the Maryland State House, another impressive sight with lots of historical significance. Besides being the oldest state capitol in continuous use, it is also the only one to have served as the U.S. capital as well. I didn’t realize that the U.S. capital ever was in Maryland, but apparently it was for a one-year period in 1783. We also got to see the Old State Chamber where George Washington resigned his command of the Continental Army and the Treaty of Paris was ratified. The dome of the State House is also quite architecturally unique. It’s made of wood, with cypress beams held together by wooden pegs.
All this sightseeing worked up an appetite, so we strolled over to City Dock along the waterfront to find a place to eat. We chose Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs because it was supposed to be a fun family place with great atmosphere and food. It definitely lived up to its reputation. Their specialty was crab cakes, but poor Herb is allergic to shellfish and would probably swell up and have to be hospitalized if he tried them. However, I’m not, so I really enjoyed my first Chesapeake Bay crab cake experience.
All in all, despite the elimination of the noon formation from my itinerary, it was a great day and a great place to come back to in the future—maybe next time by sailboat.
Annapolis is a city rich in history and tradition, with more colonial buildings than any other city in the country. In order to better understand and enjoy these many colonial treasures, the Historic Annapolis Foundation has created the Historic Marker Program. As you stroll through the brick-lined streets, you will see their color-coded octagonal plaques, emblazoned with the Liberty Tree, on various buildings. Each color corresponds to a different architectural style—Purple: Victorian, Light Green: Greek Revival, Blue: Federal, etc.
One of the most interesting of these old buildings to visit is the Maryland State House, which is the oldest U.S. state capitol in continuous use. It also served as the U.S. capital from 1783-1784. Some very significant events in U.S. history took place in this building. George Washington resigned his command of the Continental Army in the Old State Chamber and the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution, was ratified here as well. The building is also quite architecturally unique. Its dome is constructed of wood, with cypress beams held together by wooden pegs.
Perhaps Annapolis is best known for being the home of the U.S. Naval Academy. The Academy was found in 1845 in an old Army fort on 10 acres, and has now grown to a 338-acre campus with a student body, or Brigade of Midshipmen, as they are called, of about 4,000. Upon completion of their degree, these men and women must serve five years as Navy officers. The campus is located just north of downtown Annapolis at the mouth of the Severn River.
The Academy’s Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center is located on King George Street, just inside Gate 1. Here you can view a 12-minute orientation film and browse through the exhibits portraying the life of a midshipmen. Guided walking tours of the Academy depart from the visitor center several times throughout the day. Among the other attractions on campus are the U. S. Naval Academy Museum in Preble Hall, which contains a wonderful collection of model ships and other mementos of U.S. naval history, and the spectacular grand Navy Chapel, where John Paul Jones, the country’s first naval hero, is buried in a crypt beneath the sanctuary. The crypt contains the 21-ton sarcophagus of John Paul Jones surrounded by columns of black and white Royal Pyrenees marble. The sarcophagus is supported by bronze dolphins and is decorated with cast garlands of bronze sea plants.
Visitors to the Naval Academy should try to time their visit with lunchtime in order to see the noon formation, when all the midshipmen line up and are accounted for before marching in for their meal. The formation is held in Tecumseh Court in front of Bancroft Hall at 12:05 on Monday through Saturday and at 12:30 on Sunday.
A short stroll from the Naval Academy is City Dock, the heart of the Historic District. Here along the waterfront, you’ll find many of the city’s original 18th century buildings as well as numerous shops and fine seafood restaurants.