- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 4, 2002

Technically, Richard Shaw is the director of horticulture for the William Paca House and Gardens in Annapolis. But he grins at that designation, shakes his head and says humbly, "I'm the gardener."
He is standing in the middle of the gorgeous two-acre, three-level pleasure garden in historic Annapolis that belonged to William Paca, one of Maryland's four signers of the Declaration of Independence. Mr. Shaw is engaged in the precarious process of restoring the garden to its 18th-century opulence and keeping it there, which means planting and tending to the various species of flora that existed in Paca's time.
"It's hard work sometimes, sure, but my vision is to see this place really used," Mr. Shaw says. "I'd love to see people just come by here for lunch someday and enjoy it the way it was back in his day. There weren't any public parks back then; this was kind of the 'Central Park' of the day. I would love to see this place return to that a little bit."
History lovers looking for a different Fourth of July flavor this year are lucky. Maryland is the only state of the original 13 that has preserved all its signers' homes. Three of them are in Annapolis, and each of those is open to the public, including the Charles Carroll House, which opens today for the summer season. The fourth estate, that of Thomas Stone, is in Port Tobacco, in Charles County. A National Historic Site, it is open to the public, also.
Stone left his mark in Annapolis, too. The Peggy Stewart House on Hanover Street, named for the daughter of one of its original owners, was Stone's home for the last four years of his life. It is a private residence and not open to the public, but it is within walking distance of two other signers' homes in the downtown historic district.

A slice of Colonial life
Of the three signers' homes in Annapolis, the William Paca House and Gardens is perhaps the most impressive. Nobody knows for sure who designed the 37-room house, built in the mid-1760s, but historians think Paca designed it himself using English design books. The house was the first Georgian dwelling in Annapolis to feature a five-part form, with a central block, flanking wings and connecting hyphens. Classic English Georgian themes with distinctive Maryland additions, such as massive end chimneys, were used.
In 1965, the Historic Annapolis Foundation raised $275,000 to buy the house from the owners, who had been operating it as a hotel. The Maryland General Assembly provided funds to buy the garden.
The Historic Annapolis Foundation engaged a small army of archaeologists, architects and historians for five years of study and preparation before any restorative work began, trying to remain as true as possible to the original design and structure of the property. Because of all these efforts, the restoration process took 10 years, and the garden and house didn't open to the public until 1973 and 1976, respectively.
The house has been restored as meticulously as the garden, also with an emphasis on life as it existed in the 1700s. Rotating exhibits show how life was in Paca's time.

A home for women
Around the corner from the Paca House and Gardens is the former home of Samuel Chase, a signer of the Declaration of Independence during his service in the Continental Congress. He later served for years in the Maryland House of Delegates and in 1796 was appointed by President Washington to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he served until his death in 1811.
Chase began building the house on Maryland Avenue (then North East Street) in 1769, with an ambitious goal of rivaling the impressive house of Charles Carroll, a fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence whose Annapolis estate was majestic. But Chase's law practice struggled, and in 1771 he sold the unfinished house to Edward Lloyd IV, a rich planter from Maryland's Eastern Shore.
The house remained in the Lloyd family until 1846, when it was returned to the Chase family. That year, the house of Jeremiah Townley Chase, a cousin of Samuel Chase, burned to the ground and his daughter, Hester Ann Chase, bought the Lloyd house for $5,000. She lived there until 1875, willing it to her three nieces, all granddaughters of Samuel Chase.
The longest-surviving granddaughter, Hester Ann Chase Ridout, willed the house in 1886 to be used as a home for elderly women, "where they can find a retreat from the vicissitudes of life," as the will stated. The property was turned over to a board of trustees, who modernized rooms on the second and third floors. The women who live there today have access to the entire house.
"It's kind of a living museum," says Toni Fearer, who lives at and manages the house. "We've been consistent to the wishes of Hester Chase Ridout all these years."

Opulence by the water
Visitors to the Charles Carroll House in Annapolis are treated to one of the very few urban 19th-century estates close to water, according to Joyce Edmonston, tour director for the house. The house is located behind St. Mary's Church on Duke of Gloucester Street, overlooking Spa Creek.
"It's his house from birth on," she says. "He was born in this house, he got married in this house, and he helped enlarge it." In fact, there are only 15 signers' birthplaces surviving in the United States.
The Carroll House was built in 1721 by Carroll's father, Charles Carroll of Annapolis. The house had two stories when it was built, and Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the signer, added a third level and widened it.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton's granddaughters sold the house in 1851 to the Redemptorists, a Roman Catholic missionary order, who lived in the house for about 100 years, adding to the interior over time. From 1977 to 1986, the Redemptorist Order helped restore the outside of the house, and in 1987, the new Charles Carroll House of Annapolis Inc., began work on the interior.
Like the Paca house, the Carroll house features a pleasure garden. The Carroll House also has an underground wine cellar cooled by a freshwater spring and built-in air shafts. The cellar is part of the Carroll House tour.

Adventure in Haberdeventure
Charles County played an active role in two American wars. John Wilkes Booth fled through Port Tobacco during his escape after assassinating President Lincoln and had his broken leg set by Samuel Mudd, a Charles County doctor. But the county's premier historic landmark is Haberdeventure, the 322-acre plantation home of Thomas Stone, the youngest of the four Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence. It is also the only home of a signer that is totally owned by the National Park Service, according to park ranger Tom Pike, who is also the historian for the Historical Society of Charles County.
The Thomas Stone National Historic Site contains the main house, scattered outbuildings and the Stone family cemetery, where Stone and his wife are buried. Exhibits include the life of Thomas Stone and what plantation life was like during his time. The site also features a bookstore with material on Colonial life and the Declaration of Independence.

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