- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 20, 2003

George Washington walked here. So did Lord Baltimore and William Paca. Julie Brasch, a guide for Three Centuries Tours of Annapolis, sets the scene and the tone for the two dozen tourists: “Annapolis was the first peacetime capital of the United States. The Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War, was signed in the State House. George Washington walked down West Street to do that. At [6 foot 2], he was literally head and shoulders above everyone else.”

As the site of the U.S. Naval Academy and centuries-old city buildings, Annapolis is full of obvious history. There are also more arcane facts to learn — such as how the wooden State House dome was built. Taking a guided tour of Annapolis is an excellent way to see the sights and learn the facts with expert narration.

There are several ways to tour Annapolis. There is a two-hour self-guided tour where visitors can rent a headset and listen to narration by Walter Cronkite. There is an hourlong minibus tour, where guides take you to the sights on trolleys and buses. And there is the Three Centuries Tour, where costumed leaders use props and photos to bring history to life on their two-hour path.

“On any of the tours, you’ll walk away knowing more about Annapolis than many of the people who live here,” says Janet La France, a manager at the Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau, the starting point for the Three Centuries and minibus tours. “The tours are popular, and they are family friendly.”

The tour guides also are quite knowledgeable. Ms. Brasch has been guiding tours for nine years. If visitors approach her with obscure questions — ranging from the intricacies of Georgian architecture to the specifics of the Treaty of Paris — she knows the answer.

The Three Centuries tour takes visitors outside some Annapolis landmarks and inside others. It begins at the visitors center, where Ms. Brasch gives an overview of Annapolis’ role in history, its Colonial, Georgian and Victorian architectural styles, and why the city is laid out in circles.

“Annapolis has more Colonial buildings standing than Williamsburg,” Ms. Brash says. “But ours are homes and businesses. In the 1970s, there was an opportunity to make Annapolis like Williamsburg. The people here said, ‘No thanks, we want to live in our buildings.’ The compromise was the formation of the Annapolis Historic District.”

The tour continues with stops at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, the James Senate Building, past the back of the governor’s mansion and the Thurgood Marshall monument. Visitors are then taken into the State House, where they learn how the marble floors were designed, the meaning of several portraits and how the two parts of the building (built in the late 1700s and early 1900s) match. Visitors can peek into the House and Senate chambers as Ms. Brasch sets the scene of George Washington resigning his commission here.

In the State House’s side rooms, there are displays of American and Maryland history, including a tribute to the Wye Oak, the 460-year-old giant Maryland tree that toppled in a storm in 2002.

At the State House, Ms. Brasch also takes time to talk about daily life in Colonial Maryland. She passes around samples of money, explaining how each state had its own currency. She also explains her Colonial outfit, what men wore in the 1700s, and how the origin of many expressions came from that era.

“The expression ‘it costs an arm and leg,’ came from that time,” Ms. Brasch says. “Artists charged by the number of body parts displayed in a painting. If he didn’t show hands, then it cost less.”

The tour continues down Maryland Avenue, with exterior looks at St. John’s College, Hammond-Harwood House and Charles-Lloyd House. It then runs into the Naval Academy, where, depending on availability, visitors may see the pristine grounds, as well as the chapel and the crypt of John Paul Jones.

The tour winds up at the vibrant City Dock, a historical port, but also the site of impressive boats, cute shops and many places to get a good crab cake.




Directions: From the Beltway, take Route 50 east to Annapolis. Take Exit 24A (Rowe Boulevard), and follow signs to the visitor center.

Hours: From April 1 through Oct. 31, tours are given daily at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. From Nov. 1 through March 31, tours are given at 2:30 p.m., Saturdays only. Morning tours meet at 26 West St., afternoon tours meet at the City Dock Information Booth.

Admission: $11 for adults, $6 for students.

Parking: A pay parking garage is adjacent to the visitor center.

More information: 410/263-5401 or www.annapolis-tours.com.

Note: The tour lasts about two hours. Wear comfortable shoes and bring rain gear, if necessary. Small children might not enjoy the long walk. Visitors older than 16 need a photo ID to enter the State House and some Naval Academy buildings.

Discover Annapolis Minibus Tours

Location: Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau, 26 West St., Annapolis.

Directions: From the Beltway, take Route 50 east to Annapolis. Take Exit 24A (Rowe Boulevard), and follow signs to the visitor center.

Hours: Tours are given daily, but the schedule varies. Call for details.

Admission: $14 for adults, $7 for children ages 11-15, $3 for children 10 and younger, preschoolers are admitted free.

Parking: A pay parking garage is adjacent to the visitor center.

More information: 410/626-6000 or www.discover-annapolis.com.

Note: The minibus tours last

about one hour.

Self-guided walking tours

Location: Historic Annapolis Foundation Museum Store, 22 Main St., Annapolis

Directions: From the Beltway, take Route 50 east to Annapolis. Take Exit 24A (Rowe Boulevard) and turn right on College Avenue. At Church Circle, go around the circle to a right on Duke of Gloucester Street. Turn left on Green Street and right on Main Street. The museum will be on the right.

Hours: Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends.

Admission: $5

Parking: Limited street parking or pay lots are available nearby.

More information: 410/268-5576 or www.annapolis.org.

Note: Two tours are available: “Historic Annapolis Walk With Walter Cronkite,” and the “African American Heritage Walking Tour.”

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