Friday, December 7, 2012

OSC Gallery: More Elegant than Required

Image courtesy of Jay Baker, 2009.

On Monday, the present gallery in the Old Senate Chamber will be deconstructed in order to further investigate the space and prepare the room for its ultimate restoration. As mentioned in previous posts, the current gallery was a 1905 reconstruction of what the architect, John Appleton Wilson, believed to be its original 1777 appearance.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ratcliffe Manor

In March of 1894, an article titled, "Should be Restored: The Original Appearance of the Old Senate Chamber" appeared in the Baltimore Sun describing the proposed restoration to when Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the continental army and the renewed sense of patriotism and preservation shared among the citizens of Maryland. The article notes that the project had created "widespread interest and has been the subject of much favorable comment in Baltimore" and the author interviewed several of its residents. Included was a special dispatch to the Sun from Annapolis stating:
“The committee has ascertained that the sashes which were taken from the windows of the State House by Governor Carroll were bought by the late R.C. Holliday [sic] and sent by him to his farm near Easton. Mr. Mayer has written to Senator Charles H. Gibson, who now has the farm to ask him whether the sashes are still there and whether one of them can be procured for a pattern.”
Ratcliffe Manor, circa 1950s.
Pusey Collection, Talbot County Free Library.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What color was the Old Senate Chamber?

This is one of the many questions often asked by visitors to the Old Senate Chamber, and it is one being scrutinized by the project team working on the restoration. In a room that has experienced so many architectural changes in its 233-year history, there is no easy answer to the question of what is "original" to the room. Beginning with this entry, we will begin to examine many of the architectural elements and finishes currently in the space and provide insights into what we do, or do not, know about each of them. 

c. 1905
Color postcard of the Restored Old Senate Chamber
Postcards Of Maryland State House Grounds Collection
MSA SC 2215-21
Since the room was restored in 1905, the walls have only been painted in three different colors: a "colonial" green in 1905, modeled after John Trumbull's 1824 painting of General George Washington Resigning his Commission; white in the mid-twentieth century; and Prussian blue in the late 1990s.

So are any of these colors original to the eighteenth century?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Progress Uptdate: Measuring the OSC

 From left: Project architects, Mark Wenger and John Mesick, and
Sasha Lourie, Curator, Maryland Commission on Artistic Property

Last week, architects John Mesick, Mark Wenger, and their team from Mesick, Cohen, Wilson, Baker, LLP were in the Old Senate Chamber documenting and measuring the space in preparation for the demolition and design phases of this project.  During their week-long stay, the architects also visited historic Annapolis houses in order to have a better understanding of the local architectural vocabulary and to identify the relationship between the architects and craftsmen documented to have been working in the city during the construction of the State House.

Below: Members of Mesick, Cohen, Wilson, Baker, LLP team
drafting and measuring the space.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Trumbull's Old Senate Chamber

Sketches of the interior of the Old Senate Chamber, By John Trumbull.
Graphite on paper, c. 1822
Courtesy Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of the Associates in Fine Arts, 1938.286a &b

The above images, sketched by John Trumbull ca. 1822, are the earliest known depictions of the Old Senate Chamber. These sketches were drafted on-site in preparation to fulfill his 1817 commission from the U.S. Congress to paint  four large scenes of pivotal moments before, during and after the Revolutionary War to hang in the Capitol Rotunda. This series includes, Declaration of Independence (1818), Surrender of Lord Cornwallis (1820), Surrender of General Burgoyne (1821), and General George Washington Resigning His Commission (1824).

Friday, September 14, 2012

Old Senate Chamber Architectural Advisory Committee

Yesterday, September 13th, was the second meeting of the Old Senate Chamber Architectural Advisory Committee held in the Chamber. The basis for this meeting was an introduction to John Mesick and Mark Wenger, from the firm Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects, who have been been selected as the lead architects for the upcoming restoration. Offering a fresh perspective and new insight into this historic space, coupled with years of experience working with comparable buildings, we are thrilled to have the Mesick and Wenger team on board and are looking forward to working with them. 

From left: Marcia Miller, Md. Historical Trust; Mark Wenger, Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects; John Larson, Vice President for Restoration Old Salem, Inc.; Peter Pearre, Trostel & Pearre, Architects. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Happy Labor Day Weekend

Photograph of a plaster molder temporarily working in the Old House of Delegates Chamber during the 1948 renovations to the State House Rotunda.
This process of molding was done entirely by hand.
Taken by the Hughes Co.
William Preston Lane Photograph Collection
MSA SC 4082

Friday, August 17, 2012

Investigation Update: Photogrammetric survey of the OSC

Yesterday, Peter Aaslestad of Aaslestad Preservation Consulting LLC visited the Old Senate Chamber to survey the space using architectural photogrammetry, the practice of obtaining information about physical objects through the process of recording, measuring, and interpreting photographic images. 

Peter Aaslestad performing photogrammetry in the OSC, August 2012.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"Standing on this spot..."

The dedication of the plaque commemorating where Washington resigned 

Recorded on page 554 of the voluminous (1300 page) proceedings of the Twenty-Fifth Continental Congress of the Daughters of the American Revolution, held in Washington, D.C. from April 17-22, 1916, is a record of the activities of the Peggy Stewart Tea Party Chapter for the previous year. Among the Annapolis chapter's expenses is:

"$40.10 for tablet set in floor of Old Senate Chamber to mark the spot where Gen'l Washington stood when he resigned his commission in the Continental Army."

1920 - 1924 
Photograph of reenactment of Washington's resignation in restored Old Senate Chamber 
Howard E. Hayman, Jr. Collection 
MSA SC 1804-02-0058

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Old Senate Chamber Relics Photo—Too Good To Be True?

The circumstances surrounding the creation of the Detroit Photographic Company image captioned “Relics in Museum, U.S. Naval Academy” (Fig. 1) are far more mysterious than the contents of the photo itself.
Figure 1: Photograph of Relics in Museum
Courtesy of the Library of Congress det 4a15044 LC-D4-21356

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

George Washington Resigns, Speech Returns

George Washington's Resignation Speech,
 Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 5664.

Considered to be the most significant Washington document to change hands in the past 50 years, George Washington's final draft of his resignation speech was acquired by the Maryland State Archives in January of 2007. Soon it will return to the Maryland State House where the speech was delivered on December 23, 1783. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

John Shaw and the State House, 1783

John Shaw (1745-1829) is widely considered to be the premier cabinetmaker of Annapolis during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He owned the largest furniture-making shop in Annapolis which produced furniture for private and public patrons, including many commissions for work at the State House. Much of Shaw’s furniture, including objects made for the State House, was stylistically distinctive and frequently identified by labels. Between the 1770s and 1819, Shaw, more than any other Annapolis artisan, played the most extensive role in shaping the appearance of the State House, its furnishings, and in particular, the Old Senate Chamber. 

Shaw and Chisholm Label, c. 1783-4; found on MSA SC 1545-0814

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Recent Press

The Maryland State Archives and the Maryland Historical Trust would like to extend a big "Thank You!" to Earl Kelly and The Capital newspaper for their article in this past Sunday's paper. We are very pleased to be getting the word out locally about the extant documentation about this room that could inform the project, and hope that this will kick-start a nationwide appeal for information regarding the late 18th century appearance of the Old Senate Chamber. The Carroll County Times has written an editorial on the topic based on Mr. Kelly's article.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lost Relics

c. 1892-1893
Taken from the Detroit Publishing Company Photographic Collection
Courtesy of the Library of Congress det 4a15044 LC-D4-21356

This photograph is one of the most significant archival findings related to the late 18th century appearance of the Old Senate Chamber. Found under the heading, "213356, Relics in Museum, U.S. Naval Academy," in the Library of Congress' collection of Maryland photographs, this image depicts fragments of architectural elements from the Old Senate Chamber. Without the keen eye of a past intern, this photograph would have gone unnoticed in the extensive archives of the Library of Congress. 

At first glance this scene looks like a haphazard display of archaic relics; however, enlarging the photograph reveals a label affixed to the fragment on the right. It reads:

 "A portion of the ____back [?] of the Gallery [or balcony] of the Senate Chamber in the State House at Annapolis, Maryland where General Washington surrendered to Congress his Commission as Commander...of the American Army. December 23, 1783."

Brief Architectural History of the Old Senate Chamber

The jewel of the Maryland State House is the Old Senate Chamber, where the Continental Congress met while Annapolis was the capital of the United States from November 1783- August 1784. It was here that General George Washington, on December 23, 1783, came before Congress to resign his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in an emotional ceremony.  He left immediately after the ceremony to return to Mount Vernon and private life as a farmer. A bronze plaque on the floor marks the exact spot where he stood while delivering his farewell speech. Less than a month later, on January 14, 1784, the Treaty of Paris was ratified in this same room, officially ending the Revolutionary war.

18th Century
Maryland's Old Senate Chamber is not only regarded as one of the most historic and hallowed rooms in our nation's history. Designed by Annapolis architect, Joseph Horatio Anderson,  it was also considered to be one of the most architecturally elegant and refined  public spaces in Colonial America. Featuring a gallery, described as "more elegant than required," balanced on the opposite wall by an ornately carved niche, the Old Senate Chamber was the embodiment of Annapolis-style design and craftsmanship.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


This blog will document the efforts to restore Maryland's Old Senate Chamber, in the Maryland State House, to its original late 18th century appearance. This blog will also feature historical information about the Old Senate Chamber, including archival and photograph evidence, that is informing the most recent efforts to accurately interpret this room–one of the most historic rooms in American history.

Considered to be one of the Nation's most historically significant spaces, this room was where the Continental Congress met from November 26, 1783, to August 13, 1784. During that time, George Washington came before Congress to resign his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the Treaty of Paris was ratified, marking the official end of the Revolutionary War. Additionally, it was here that Thomas Jefferson was appointed the first United States' minister plenipotentiary to foreign governments.

Designated as a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior in 1960, the Maryland State House is the oldest state capitol still in continuous legislative use and it is the only state house to have ever served as the nation's capitol. For more information, please visit our website