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Self Guided Tour of Historic Annapolis

Updated: January 17, 2023

From our DC Tourism Guide, with budget advice, travel guides, and information about local Washington DC attractions.

A wonderful day trip from Washington, DC, Historic Annapolis is less than an hour away (outside of traffic!).

This historic town and its cobblestone streets still has an eighteenth century air as you wander past buildings from the mid 1700s.

As the home of the United States Naval Academy, don't be surprised to see midshipmen in the uniforms walking past you.

Lonely Planet also has more information on how to get to Annapolis and what to do while you're there!

Enjoy your self guided tour? Make a donation to help support the guides. You can Venmo @canden-ftbf or Buy Me A Coffee:

Use our self guided tour to find your way around both the Academy and the historic downtown area. Be warned that you will have to go through airport like security and need a Photo ID to enter a few of these stops.

Historic Annapolis

This seaport was founded as the town of Providence by Puritans coming to America in 1649.

It was incorporated in 1708 as the provincial capitol of the colony of Maryland and renamed Annapolis after Princess Anne by then governor, Francis Nicholson. Between being named Providence and Annapolis, it had been referred to as Anne Arundel Towne, in honor of the wife of Lord Baltimore, Charles Calvert.

These are still found in Maryland - the city of Baltimore, Anne Arundel County, Calvert County.

Governor Nicholson had the city expansion designed in a baroque style with two circles, one for the state house and one for the church. Many of the streets you'll be walking down are in the original location and have the same name as they did in the 1700s.

In fact, Annapolis has more 18th century brick homes than any other city in America.

It has been the capitol of Maryland since 1694 and was once the capital of the United States.

If touring on foot isn't for you, take the Annapolis City Segway Tour.

Stop B: Kunta-Kinte Memorial

The original plaque put here in the 1980s was stolen after a few days after the dedication leaving behind only a business card signed by the KKK.

Annapolis was a port that participated in the slave trade. Author Alex Haley was able to trace his roots back to Kunta Kinte's arrival here at the Port of Annapolis.

His family's story is told in his book and now movie Roots. He is here reading to three children of different races.

Stop C: Entrance to the US Naval Academy

Pedestrian entrances to Gate 1 can be found on Randall Street (between Prince George and King George Streets

NOTE: In order to enter the grounds here, you must go through airport-like security. There is a 100% ID check to enter the grounds. All adults must have ID.

As you enter through Gate 1, you'll see a bust of John Barry. Often referred to as the Father of the American Navy (a title also given to another man we'll see later on the tour). He was the first captain of a US warship commissioned for service under the Continental flag of the US.

Continuing into the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center. Here you can watch a 13-minute film about the Naval Academy, as well as the gift shop!

There are over 4000 students at the USNA. All students are called midshipmen during their four years on campus. In order to apply, you must be nominated by your congressperson or the Vice President (though you don't have to know them, it's an application by merit process to get nominated)

Over 4000 nominations are given out each year, but only 1500 people are accepted.

Rather than pay for college, midshipmen are paid but are required to serve five years in the military after graduation.

Stop D: Mascot Statue

As a gift from the Class of 1915, this statue of a fighting goat shows the Navy Mascot.

"The Naval Academy has had a goat as its mascot since 1890 when, according to legend, on their march from the ferry station at Highland Falls up the steep hill to West Point to play the first Army-Navy football game, the Naval Cadets (as they were then known) saw a goat outside the NonCom's houses at West Point and promptly commandeered "Billy" for their mascot. Since that time the goat has remained as the recognized mascot of the U.S. Naval Academy."

Stop E: Captain's Row

These historic 1905 hours on Porter's Row are reserved for those who have Key and Essential duties on campus. It is nicknamed Captain's Row. The officers' names are listed on the steps, either in blue (US Naval) or red (Marines).

Stop F: Tecumseh Statue

This statue is not actually of Chief Tecumseh. It is actually Chief Tamanend of the Delaware tribe. It was the figurehead of the USS Delaware. The original figurehead is housed elsewhere and this copy has been referred to as Tecumseh, of the Shawnee tribes.

This bronze statue is called the God of 2.0, the passing GPA of midship. In hopes of earning a passing grade, they'll offer left handed salutes. Tradition says if you can get a penny to stay inside the quiver, you'll pass. Joke is on the midshipmen, though - there is no inside to the quiver, it's covered!

The statue is often decorated in "war paint" on special occasions.

Stop G: Bancroft Hall

This is the largest dormitory in the United States. It houses all the over 4,000 midshipmen with 4.8 miles of corridor and 33 acres of floor space. It is the only dorm on campus.

The main rotunda is open to the public. Turning right off the main rotunda, you can see an example of a traditional dorm room. Midshipmen's rooms must meet strict standards and be ready for military inspection at all times.

Stop H: Memorial Hall

At the top of the stairs in the rotunda, you'll find Memorial Hall. It is not always open so please adhere to the signage out front.

Here you will find the honor roll of those Naval Academy graduates and midshipmen who were killed in action.

Stop I: Herndon Monument

Commander William Herndon chose to go down with his ship when it sank in 1857. He saved as many women and children as he could but went down with the remaining 400 passengers off the coast of North Caroline.

Named in his memory, the Herndon Monument is a well-known symbol of midshipmen moving up in year. At the end of their first year, the "plebes" have to work together to climb to the top where a Dixie Cap is replaced with a Midshipmen Cover.

What makes it difficult process is that the entire 21 foot tall monument is greased. Legend says that the first plebe to the top will one day be an admiral, but it has yet to come true.

Stop J: Naval Chapel

The distinct dome can be seen around campus, and even out to see. Third year students officially promote when they see the dome of the chapel upon returning from their summer cruise.

The Chapel was dedicated in 1908 and continues to serve the student body. As you enter the doors, you'll see one pew ahead that is roped off with a single candle lit. It remains empty in honor of all those servicemen still missing in action.

If you turn and look behind you, you'll see a wooden carving a ship hanging from the ceiling above the door. It's a lot larger than it looks. It is 12' long!

Three of the windows came from the Tiffany Studios. One depicts the allegorical figure Sir Galahad, another is in memorial of Adm. David Dixon Porter, the USNA superintendent after the Civil War, William T. Sampson and David Farragut.

The third window shows the likeness of Tom Hamilton, president of the class of 1927, and hero of the Navy Football team.

Stop K: John Paul Jones' Crypt

No, not the bassist for Led Zeppelin. John Paul Jones, like Commodore Barry, is referred to as the Father of the American Navy.

A tall, red-haired Scotsman, Jones joined the American side in the Revolutionary War. Refusing to give up his ship and flag at the insistence of the British, he yelled back to them "I have not yet begun to fight!"

When he died in Paris in 1792, he was buried in the St. Louis Cemetery in a lead coffin filled with alcohol. A wealthy Frenchman wanted to preserve the dead for his eventual return to the U.S.

The cemetery was later sold and forgotten. It was not until 1905, after six years of searching, he was finally found and brought to the U.S. Thanks to the preservative effects of alcohol, he was identified by comparing the remains to a portrait done from life.

His grandiose crypt here in the basement of the Naval Chapel is fitting for this larger than life man. The sculpture holding up his sarcophagus depicts dolphins and other sea life.

Inscribed on the ground are the names of the Continental Navy ships commanded by John Paul Jones during the American Revolution: Providence, Alfred, Ranger, Bonhomme Richard, Serapis, Alliance and Ariel.

Stop L: Hammond-Harwood House

19 Maryland Ave, Annapolis, MD 21401

The owner of this house never actually lived in it. It was built in 1774 as five-part brick house. You see the main body of the house is connected by "hyphens" to the wings.

It is the only existing work of colonial academic architecture that was principally designed from c. 1570 book of architecture, and one of the most beautiful examples of colonial homes in the city.

The house passed through a few families only to find it's way back to the great-grandson of the original architect, who married the daughter of the owner.

The house is open to the public for tours and visits. For more information:

Stop M: Chase Lloyd House

22 Maryland Ave, Annapolis, MD 21401

This three story Georgian home was build in 1769 by Samuel Chase, signer of the Declaration of Independence. Before he could move in, he sold it to the Lloyd family, who in turn sold it back to the descendants of Chase.

In 1888, the house was willed as a home for elderly women. More than a century later, it is still used as such. The upper floor remains reserved for independent women.

The lower floors and gardens are open to the public. For more information:

Stop N: William Paca House

186 Prince George St, Annapolis, MD 21401

Another signer of the Declaration of Indepedence, William Paca was also a three term governor of Maryland. He designed this house mostly himself between 1763 and 1765.

The house and gardens are open for tours. For more information:

Stop O: Maryland State House

Built in 1772, this is the oldest state house still in use. It is also the largest dome built without nails. This is one of the two original circles that Governor Nicholson planned for the new capital city.

This is also the first and only State House to also be the Capitol building of the United States. From Nov 1783 to Aug 1784, while Annapolis was the capital of the country, the State House acted as the Capitol. It was here that Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War was signed, here that George Washington offered his resignation to Congress.

The building is open to the public. There is airport like security and ID check here as well.

You can see in the newer portion of the building the House and Senate galleries of the Maryland State Congress. Further back, you will find the older section of the building. The original galleries have been redone to resemble the 1700s decor that George Washington would recognize.

More in-depth self guided tours of the State House are available at the information desk.

Stop P: St. Anne's

199 Duke of Gloucester St, Annapolis, MD 21401

The second circle in the city's original plan was for the church. St. Anne's Paris was founded in 1692. The original building was more like a barn than a church and in 1775, parishioners were going to get a new church.

Unfortunately, the war broke out before it could be built. The construction materials were sent elsewhere for the war effort.

The building you see today was built in 1858.

About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Follow On Instagram | Canden is a historian & tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the producer of the podcast, Tour Guide Tell All. She is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city since 2011. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has traveled to over 28 countries and every US State but Hawaii. She homeschools her 2 children by exploring the plethora of museums in DC.
Updated: January 17th, 2023
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