Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings
Ownership and Administration. State of Maryland.
Significance. The Maryland State House, the oldest still in daily use, is one of the most historic buildings in the Nation, located in one of the most historic cities. In this building the Continental Congress ended the War for Independence by ratifying the Treaty of Paris, accepted George Washington's resignation as commander in chief of the Army, and ratified the appointment of Thomas Jefferson as Minister Plenipotentiary. The Annapolis Convention, a forerunner of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, also met in the statehouse.
For nearly 9 months in 1783-84 (November 25-August 13), the statehouse was the seat of the Federal Government under the Articles of Confederation. For 6 months the Continental Congress met in the room known today as the Old Senate Chamber, where on January 14, 1784, it ratified the Treaty of Paris, ending the War for Independence. A few weeks earlier George Washington had appeared before Congress to resign his commission as commander in chief of the Army; in doing so he reaffirmed the old English principle of the supremacy of civil over military authority and the democratic ideal of a government in which no man would become too powerful. On May 7, 1784, Congress appointed Thomas Jefferson as Minister Plenipotentiary, and he then departed for Paris to join John Adams and Benjamin Franklin in negotiating treaties of commerce with other powers. After the main body of Congress adjourned on June 3, 1784, a "Committee of States," in charge of Government affairs, remained in the Old Senate Chamber until August 13; in November the Congress reconvened in Trenton, N.J.
In September 1786 the Annapolis Convention met in the Old Senate Chamber. This convention, in which only five States participated, discussed the formulation of a commercial code to govern all the States and finally recommended to Congress that it call another convention to begin at Philadelphia in May 1787 to consider means of strengthening the Government under the Articles of Confederation. Congress acted favorably on this recommendation; the Constitutional Convention was the result.
From the time of the Annapolis Convention to this day, the statehouse has been used exclusively by the State of Maryland. The General Assembly session that convened in March 1780 had probably first used the building. Construction had begun on March 28, 1772, when Maryland's last royal governor officiated at the laying of the cornerstone. Neither the exact date of completion nor the architect are known.
Present Appearance. The brick statehouse, a distinguished two-story building, is topped by a tall octagonal dome and cupola. The main entrance is covered by a one-story Corinthian portico that is pedimented. The portal opens into a wide arcaded hall, under the central dome, that has arched and oval windows and delicate plaster interior ornament. The Old Senate Chamber has been restored to its historic appearance, including six original pieces of furniture. Over the entrance is a curved, balustraded spectators' gallery, supported by fluted Ionic columns. Facing the entrance is a circular speaker's platform. Surrounding the room are 24 sash windows, which have deep paneled reveals and window seats. A classically trimmed fireplace adorns the room. Opposite the Old Senate Chamber is the Old Hall of Delegates, next to which is the Historic and Flag Room, which contains relics of Maryland's part in the Nation's wars. The statehouse today includes a State-office annex, constructed in 1902-5, slightly larger than the original building. The historic parts of the statehouse are open to the public.
NHL Designation: 12/19/60
Last Updated: 29-Aug-2005