Read Time: 4 min

annapolis city dock

Redux Extra May 4, 2022
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Part 1: “A Walking DreaM”


The Annapolis City Dock has been a part of the author’s family life since 1854 when her great- grandfather moved by the Severn River. Five generations of the McNairs have raised their families by the Severn River and the City Dock. Subsequent articles will feature the current restaurants and eateries, as well as a family tour for small children and the Naval Academy!

Beloved Annapolis, the City Dock, is an experience for travelers that is both visually beautiful and historically conducive to a “walking dream” over the long life on the banks of the Severn River. At the dock, one sees the mouth of the Severn River pour into Spa Creek where the sailing capital is home to sailboats, powerboats and the Annapolis Yacht Club that overlooks the entrance to the city. Named the jewel of Maryland, the river is capped with sparkling waves on the brightest of days. The Chesapeake Bay is visible; it is the largest estuary bay in the United States.

Withdrawing from the dock to the protection of the colonial city, we walk to Starbucks on Main Street. Coffee is a mainstay for sailors and others as we venture down the alley just ahead, Tate Alley, not Hyde Alley, actually comes first. The alley quickly transforms into a passage leading to the state capitol building, the oldest capitol building in the US that has been in constant use. Inside are beautiful architectural materials, oil paintings, and maps of earlier days.

Behind us on Main Street, we have left the Irish Tradition store front, the Spice & Tea Exchange, and now we see State Circle and the grounds of the Capitol Building that is in session the first
few months of each year. I recall my father telling me about this circle, its quaint restaurants, brick roads, and the Tilghmans Jewelers— where my grandparents bought silver cups for each of their eight children. A satisfying journey into past traditions pinpoints this corner as the place for lovely engraved gifts for births and weddings—still there through many decades.

We can not change the fact that the right turn to Maryland Avenue over the years has an imperfect red brick road, though restored, leading to present charming antique stores. These timeless shops are unafraid to build on the quality of the life well lived with tea, spirits, and a meal of proportion and great flavor at the local restaurants. Hidden from the view on Main Street, Maryland Avenue offers a quieter moment to stroll and finish the Annapolis Ice Cream so delicious, amazing, work of art scoop of ice cream! This assumes you have turned right at the top of Main Street, passed the Governor’s Mansion, made an immediate right onto State Circle, and a right onto Maryland Avenue, and we join up again.

Deep into the heart of old Annapolis, we turn left onto Prince George Street after only one block. Before us is an illustration of one of the oldest colleges in America, St. John’s College. The Great Books program is unique here. The study of previous epochs, learned in eras from Socrates to Pascal, aims to understand ancient history.

The college is reminiscent of the world’s oldest universities like Oxford or the Sorbonne. Fun is a need, too, so every year, at St. John’s College, there is a cricket match of great pomp. In the fall, there is a respectful gathering in honor of the French unknown soldiers buried behind the college around a landmark for the French soldiers who died in the Marquis de Lafayette’s time in Annapolis. This fall event is matched with singing the Marseillaise. Ceremonial officiants from French associations and other notable groups arrive and stage a well rehearsed event.

This whirlwind tosses us back to Prince George Street, from whence we came. Now, we will walk all the way down— forming a rectangle to return to the City Dock where we began. However, it is not a disappointment as we see descriptive doors, wreaths of excellence, and the triumph of the responsible gardens with gates, fixtures, and territory vases in pottery shades of amber, jade, and turmeric. This homey flavor extends to the window candles. The colorfully painted homes are unexpected visual evidence of imaginative locals.

The William Paca House on Prince George Street is now a large museum with a colonial garden that is in use, along with tours to view the rooming of colonials, the fireplaces, and a formerly active kitchen of the olden days. My great-grandmother actually lived in the William Paca House when it was temporarily converted to a hotel, then much later restored to its first historical purpose.

After a final right turn on Randall, we are back where we began at the City Dock in front of the old fish market. We lament the end of the walking tour, no longer separated by history, but a messenger
to sit on a bench over flagstones and converse about a pattern of life that we can track. As a child, I would visit my grandparents, Captain and Mrs.McNair on King George Street every weekend.

My father held my hand and took me to many of the houses I passed today, in 2021, to say hello to family friends, who hoped for a visit from travelers. We might send a note ahead announcing when we will be there. Whether arriving or departing, we all have new friends to meet!

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