- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 22, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — A stroll through the Maryland State House might give a visitor the impression that the state’s government skipped the 19th century.

The building’s rich 18th-century history, when it was the capitol of the fledgling American nation, is on display in the Old Senate Chamber. Exhibits in three adjoining rooms give a glimpse of what life was like when the Continental Congress was in town in the late 1700s.

And modern government is on display in the “new” Senate and House of Delegates chambers, where the General Assembly has met for the last 100 years.

But there’s nothing to mark the historic events that took place in the 1800s.

“We’ve overlooked the point in time that is crucial to understanding the development of our government,” said Edward C. Papenfuse, the state archivist.

Lawmakers meeting in the old House chamber expanded voting rights, adopted the constitution of 1864 that ended slavery and, three years later, approved a new constitution that still governs Maryland.

To correct the oversight, the Maryland State Archives is proposing a partial restoration of the old House chamber to the high Victorian style of the late 1800s.

It’s the key element in a plan to make the State House more friendly to visitors, giving them a better understanding of the momentous events that took place in Annapolis since the original building was constructed between 1772 and 1779. Preliminary estimates put the cost at $3.7 million.

“The State House really needs a total reinterpretation,” said Mimi Calver, director of exhibits and artistic properties for the archives.

Among the other suggested renovations are to refurbish exhibits and to creating a video on the history of the State House and the workings of modern government that would be shown in the visitors center.

Mr. Papenfuse presented the proposal to a recent meeting of the three members of the State House Trust — Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch. They responded favorably but made no immediate commitment to support it.

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