Friday, December 12, 2014

What's Next for the Maryland State House?

The Old Senate Chamber is only a few weeks away from opening, but we hope you don’t get the wrong idea that that is the end of our work for the Maryland State House! Rather, the Old Senate Chamber fits into a larger plan that seeks to restore the Maryland State House, enhance visitor experience, and maintain the building and its grounds for future generations. While perhaps one of the most famous, the Old Senate Chamber is far from the only structure on the State House grounds with a long and impressive story. From the Old House of Delegates Chamber where the Constitution of 1864 was signed to one of the original cannons that came to Maryland on the Ark and the Dove, Maryland’s State House is a building we must preserve.

Artistic sketch of the Old Treasury Building from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, from a sketch by Joseph Becker, 1881. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 4314-1-3.

With great excitement, we introduce one of the future projects that will enhance visitor experience at the Maryland State House and best tell the story of Maryland’s history. Many of you may have passed it on the way into the State House. The Old Treasury Building, which has stood next to the third Maryland State House since its construction in 1779, is the oldest public building on State Circle. Believed to have been built by Patrick Creagh between 1735 and 1736 and originally intended for the Commissioners for Emitting Bills of Credit, the Old Treasury Building has experienced a variety of uses and names over the course of centuries.

Engraving of the Maryland State House in Columbian Magazine, attributed to Charles Willson Peale, 1789. The Old Treasury Building, one of the oldest surviving structures on the property, appears on the far right of the image. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 194-3.

Much of the information on the eighteenth-century history of the building is surprisingly scant. We know that it had been furnished from the onset with three iron chests (one of which you are able to view in the Archives Room of the State House); and, in 1774, the famed architect, William Buckland, was paid for furnishing the Loan Office (as the Old Treasury Building was known) with “one large double desk with green cloth, locks, hinges, brasses, &c.” and repairing another large table.[1]

The building required repair on several occasions throughout its long life, and in the twentieth-century, saw itself occupied at one time or another by the State Board of Education, Anne Arundel County Superintendent of Schools, the Annapolis Chamber of Commerce, and Historic Annapolis, Inc. Sadly, since 2007, the building has been closed to the public because of preservation concerns.

Through the master plan for the Maryland State House, it is our intention to gather as much information as possible on the Old Treasury Building, and eventually reopen the building to the public. Rather than restore the structure as we did for the eighteenth-century Old Senate Chamber, or recreate a room as we did for the nineteenth-century Old House of Delegate Chamber, it is our hope to use the Old Treasury Building to honor Maryland’s earliest period of history. When the Old Treasury Building finally reopens, expect to find a visitor experience that will at last tie the Maryland State House to its roots in seventeenth-century history and Maryland’s first capital in St. Mary’s City!

The Old Treasury Building today. Image courtesy of Jay Baker, 2007, Maryland State Archives.

Interested in finding out how you can help? Contact us to share any information you may have about the history of the Old Treasury Building, or make a tax deductible donation to support the restoration of the Old Senate Chamber and future maintenance of Maryland’s treasured State House!

[1] General Assembly Proceedings, March 13, 1732/3-April 12, 1733 Session, p. 92. See also Maryland State Papers (Scharf Papers) MSA S1005-75-10585 MdHR 19,999-070-126.

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