- Associated Press - Monday, July 14, 2014

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - At Maryland’s State House, visitors peek into today’s state Senate and House of Delegates chambers.

A walk down the hall brings them to the renovated high Victorian Old House Chamber, providing a glimpse of the 19th century. Then, after a stop in the old Archives room across the hall, the tour ends.

Since September 2012, a temporary white wall has separated tourists from the room where George Washington resigned his commission as commander of the Continental Army, establishing the principle of civilian control of America’s government.

It may have been the most significant thing to occur in the State House in the building’s long history. And the room where it happened is on track to re-open in December, said Elaine Bachmann, director of outreach, exhibits and artistic property at the Maryland State Archives.

The results of nearly $8 million in renovations - and a window back to the 18th century - will be on view with the reopening of the Old Senate Chamber, the old Senate Committee Room and the stairwell room.

The changes will include touch-screen interactive guides, a bronze sculpture of Washington and a portrait gallery. Visitors will get a better experience, Bachmann said.

“This is a national historic site,” she said. “The opening of these rooms is going to make really a big impact.”

Renovation of the Old Senate Chamber started in November 2006, when the Annapolis restoration firm of John Greenwalt Lee Co. analyzed the chamber’s wall plaster.

Workers peeled 17 layers of latex paint to reveal the original brick on view when Washington resigned his commission on Dec. 23, 1783.

Experts discovered that the Old Senate Chamber’s last restoration, in 1905, did not conform to architectural practices in late Colonial Annapolis, and did not present the room the way it was in 1783.

When these findings were presented to the State House Trust in 2009, officials of the Maryland Historical Trust, the Maryland State Archives and the Department of General Services considered whether a restoration was needed.

The decision - as presented in a 2010 report - was to go ahead with restoration, and work was started to determine how the room looked on that day in 1783.

“The ancient Romans spoke of the genius loci, the spirit of the place - the effect a place has on one’s psyche,” wrote the Old Senate Chamber Architectural Advisory Committee. “The Old Senate Chamber has sheltered events that affected the course of history. The genius loci of this room must be felt by all those who enter it.”

In addition to the work on the historic rooms, Edwin White’s 1859 painting, “Washington Resigning His Commission as Commander in Chief” is being cleaned and will be returned to its traditional place above the Grand Stairwell.

Alexander “Sasha” Lourie, curator for the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property, said restorers rid the canvas of grime and the effects of older repairs, revealing new details and more vibrant colors.

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