- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Annapolis mansion of William Paca, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, offers a chance to stroll in a 2-acre landscaped garden, a look at how archaeology is used to re-create lost history and a glimpse into the daily life of a wealthy 18th-century family.

“Children especially like to hear how kids back then lived,” says Alexandra Deutsch, spokeswoman at the Paca House. “We try to point out similarities and differences.”

One of the rooms in the mansion, which can only be seen through guided tours, is furnished and equipped to care for a sick child — William and Mary Paca took care of an ailing niece for a while.

“We talk about what it would have been like for a child in a prominent family like this to be sick,” Ms. Deutsch says. “She would’ve had a slave assigned to her to take care of her needs day and night.”

She also would have received medicines in the form of herbal remedies, but in the end, even a mild cold could kill, Ms. Deutsch says.

Glenn Campbell, a Paca House historian and tour guide, says he tells school classes that many activities of 18th-century people were similar to activities of 21st-century people, one being writing and filing documents. But we go about it differently, Mr. Campbell says.

“I usually tell them that William Paca’s secretary is very much like the laptops we use today. It’s just that writing a letter, sending it and waiting for it to arrive could take months,” he says, compared to today’s e-mails, which can take a few seconds to send and receive.

The secretary, a type of desk with various compartments, is in a room known then as the hall, to the right of the main passageway (today referred to as a “hall”), where Paca would write letters and entertain male guests. Dominos and a braid of tobacco are displayed next to the fireplace.

On the second floor are the bedrooms. The “master bedroom,” then referred to as the parlor chamber, also doubled as a classroom for the Pacas’ son John, Ms. Deutsch says.

“Kids didn’t necessarily go off to school every day. In wealthy households like this one, there were tutors, but Mary Paca would also have been involved,” she says.

On a bedroom table are a book about manners and a pen and paper designated for writing exercises.

The tour also takes visitors to the downstairs kitchen, the parlor, the porch chamber and the dining chamber. Yes, this is a large house that even has a walk-in closet, a definite luxury in those days.

The house, built in the mid-1760s, remained William Paca’s property until 1780 when he sold it to a fellow attorney, Thomas Jennings. It remained in private hands through the 18th and 19th centuries, often occupied by renters.

In 1901, a real estate developer bought the property and converted it into a hotel, Carvel Hall. The Paca House served as the hotel entrance, while most of the 200-room hotel was an extension. For about 60 years it was a very popular hotel. But after two fires, the hotel and adjoining Paca House were facing demolition to make way for an office and apartment complex.

Local preservationists stepped in, and after almost a decade of research and rebuilding, the Paca Garden was opened to the public in 1973. Before and after pictures show how the hotel parking lot became the perfectly manicured and landscaped garden with plants like magnolias, hibiscus, hollies, cedars, roses, pears, plums and figs.

The Paca House opened in 1976, fittingly in time for the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence, which Paca signed.

To properly and correctly rebuild and restore the house and garden, archaeology, paint analysis and X-ray were used. Much of what visitors see at the Paca House today — the Prussian blue moldings for example — are reproductions. But the structure, which has seen owners, renters and hotel guests come and go through the centuries, has stood the test of time.

“This is not just the home of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence,” Mr. Campbell says. “It’s also representative of the ebb and flow — the booms and busts — of Annapolis.”


Location: William Paca House and Garden is at 186 Prince George St. in Annapolis.

Directions: From the Beltway, take Route 50 east toward Annapolis. Take the Rowe Boulevard exit (Exit 24) and merge onto Rowe Boulevard. Then merge onto Northwest Street. Continue three-quarters of the way around Church Circle and make a right on College Avenue. Make a right onto King George Street, a right on East Street and then another quick right onto Prince George Street. The William Paca House and Garden will be on the right.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tours, which are required to see the house, are given every hour on the half-hour beginning at 10:30 a.m. The last tour starts at 3:30 p.m. The first tour on Sunday is 12:30 p.m.; the last is at 3:30 p.m. Tours of the garden are self-guided.

Parking: Limited street parking is available.

Admission: $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for children ages 6 to 17, free for children age 5 and younger.

Information: 410/267-7619 or www.annapolis.org

Notes: Wear comfortable walking shoes; the house is not handicapped or stroller accessible. There is museum store on the premises, and various eateries are located nearby.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide