Annapolis, MD: Storm Clouds Over the State House

Annapolis, MD: Storm Clouds Over the State House

The Maryland State House in Annapolis is the oldest state capitol building still in continuous legislative use. It also has the distinction of being the only state house to have served as the national capitol, which it did from November 26, 1783, to August 13, 1784.

About 1790, Annapolitan Charles Wallace was given the contract to build the State House, with Joseph Horatio Anderson as the architect. The cornerstone for the State House was laid by Sir Robert Eden, the last Royal Governor of Maryland, in March 1772, and work on the building started later that year. Construction was delayed, first by a hurricane, and later by the Revolutionary War. By the time the Continental Congress met here in 1783, the building was  still not entirely finished. In particular, both the roof as well as the small dome-topped cupola had leaked over several years, doing interior and structural damage in the process. 

Another Annapolitan, Joseph Clark, undertook the repair of the roof and a complete redesign and replacement of the cupola. The much larger, imposing, and elegant dome became Clark's magnum opus and the focal point of the Annapolis skyline ever since.  

By 1900, the size of each house of the Maryland legislature had grown to the point that their chambers had become to crowded. Early in that decade, the State House was expanded by adding nearly twice the original plan area  to the northwest side of the building. The architect did a nice job of matching the original colonial Georgian and neoclassical architecture and added a monumental temple front, with six Corinthian columns supporting a pediment, the pediment containing a relief of the Maryland coat of arms. The new addition reversed the location of the "front door" of the State House, which had been in the southeastern wall. 

Now here's an interesting factoid about the State House: The dome is built entirely without nails; the joinery is all mortise-and tenon, like a piece of fine cabinetry. It's the largest dome constructed this way in the United States.  

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Garment District: The Nelson Tower (450 7th Avenue)

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