Listed: 1965 (boundaries extended in 1984)
City and State: Annapolis, Maryland
Type of district: National Register Historic District
Major Intersection: Prince George and East Streets
The origins of the Colonial Annapolis Historic District date to the 17th century, when the capital of Maryland was moved from the town of St. Mary’s to the sparsely-settled Anne Arundel Town further up the Chesapeake Bay. Anne
Arundel Town was renamed Annapolis in honor of Princess, later Queen, Anne, and Annapolis was incorporated in 1696.
Annapolis was laid out according to the baroque planning ideals of grandeur and vista. Contrary to the typical American street grid, two circular rotaries were positioned near one another at the center of the town, and broad avenues radiated outward from them to the edges of the town. The two rotaries contained the town’s most important structures – the State House and a church. These buildings were meant to serve as focal points for the radial roads, but as none of the radial roads were built directly on-axis with the center of either rotary, the Baroque ideal was never fully achieved.
As the state capital of Maryland and an important Chesapeake port, Annapolis was a popular place for the practitioners of many different professions to settle in the 18th century. Houses – grand mansions and modest row houses alike – as well as commercial structures survive from this period. Annapolis grew throughout the 18th century until it was eclipsed by the designation of Baltimore as the state’s official port of entry in the late 18th century. Nevertheless, Annapolis retains today both its status as the state capital and its historic charm, blending together 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century history and architecture.