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