Maryland State House dome under restoration, 1979. Photo from Maryland Historical Trust.

Our Maryland State House through History

01/14/2017
By Preservation Maryland

On this day in 1784, our Maryland State House hosted members of the Continental Congress to sign the Treaty of Paris – the document that officially ended the Revolutionary War and acknowledged the United States to be free, sovereign, and independent from Britain! And that’s why, on January 14, we celebrate Ratification Day. And there’s a lot more history, too:

MARYLAND IN THE THICK OF HISTORY

The Maryland State House has a long legacy, indeed:

Completed in 1779, by architect Joseph Horatio Anderson, the Maryland State House is the oldest state house in continuous use. Anderson also designed St Anne’s Church across the State Circle and the Whitehall plantation home in Anne Arundel County.

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The Maryland State House soon after its completion, by Charles Willson Peale. Published in Columbian Magazine, 1789.

It is, also, the only extant state house that has served as the US Capitol, as the Continental Congress assembled in the Old Senate Chamber from November 26, 1783, to August 13, 1784. During this time, George Washington – to the surprise of the world – surrendered his authority as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. His intention was to ensure that civilians would exercise control over the military.

In 1960, predating the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Park Service designated the Maryland State House a National Historic Landmark in 1960, one of the first in the nation.

The State House Trust was established in 1969 to oversee the preservation of the State House buildings, grounds, and its interpretation to the public. The Trust is comprised of four governmental trustees, including the Governor, with guidance from the Maryland Historic Trust.

The State House Trust and the Maryland Historical Trust recently restored the Old Senate Chamber of the State House to its 1784 appearance – from the color of the paint to the arrangement of the furniture. In 2015, Preservation Maryland awarded the restoration team their Stewardship Award.

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“General George Washington Resigning His Commission, “John Trumbull, 1824. Photo from Architect of the Capitol.

A statue of Washington is in the center of the room, facing the rostrum where president of the Congress Thomas Mifflin once sat. Above, on the ladies’ balcony, is a statue of Molly Ridout, writer of one of the few eyewitness accounts we have of Washington surrendering his command.

Adjacent to the Old Senate Chamber is the Senate Committee Room, where the state legislature passed the 1864 act to abolish slavery. An historic recreation of that room was completed in 2012

Visit the State House

The Maryland State House is open to the public every day from 9am to 5pm, except Christmas Day and New Years Day. To help make your visit to the Maryland State House more enjoyable, and to provide you with an understanding of its rich and historic past, self-guided tour information is available in the Office of Interpretation on the first floor.

Additional Reading

Proclaiming Peace, January 14, 1784: Ratification of the Treaty of Paris
Maryland State Archives

History of the State House and Its Dome
Maryland State Archives

Preservation Maryland

Preservation Maryland is Maryland’s first and largest organization dedicated to preserving the state’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes, and archaeological sites.

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