In 1649, an English community emerged on the land that now makes up Maryland's capital. Puritans, seeking religious freedom, nestled into a spot on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay and called their new town Providence.
This small settlement grew, eventually becoming named Anne Arundel's Towne, after the wife of Lord Baltimore. By the late 1600's, Anne Arundel's towne housed most of the 25,000 residents in the Maryland Province, and in 1694, Royal Governor Sir Francis Nicholson chose it as the provincial capital because of its central location.
Nicholson renamed this new capital Annapolis in honor of Princess Anne, who became Queen of England 1702. He directed the city be built following a grand baroque street plan, similar to the great capitals of Europe. The highest town circle revolved around the capitol building. The second-highest circle featured an Anglican church. Residential areas, merchant districts and schools sprouted up around these centers.
In the 1700's, Annapolis led the political, cultural and economic climates in the Colonies. Construction of what is now Annapolis' famed Maryland State House began in 1772. The state house has since hosted numerous monumental events, including General George Washington's resignation from the Continental Army in 1783. Present-day visitors can step inside the Old Senate Chamber, where this event occurred. Congress also ratified the Treaty of Paris here on January 14, 1784, which ended the American Revolution. And in 1786, the Maryland State House hosted the Annapolis Convention, where delegates from five states convened to discuss changes to the Articles of Confederation.
The Maryland State House is the first and only state house to serve as the nation's capitol, with federal government operations transpiring inside from November 1783 to August 1784. The Maryland State House now endures as the oldest state house in continuous legislative use.
After the Civil War, steamboats began bringing visitors to Annapolis to lounge on the beaches and waterfront location of City Dock encouraging the growth of resorts, beachfront shops and yacht clubs, and establishing Annapolis as an elite summer destination.
At the turn of the 19th century, the economic emphasis shifted from Anne Arundel County's successful plantations to the bodies of water surrounding and flowing through Annapolis. Water trades such as oyster packing, boat building and sail-making became the city's chief industries. Waterfront villages took root throughout the county, and the shipping ports bolstered their workforce.
With its centuries-old political and cultural history, Annapolis is a thriving citywide museum of our nation's past. Annapolitians have upheld the city's history and tradition, setting the scene for the reverential lifestyle visitors experience today.