Alumni House.Then and Now
Along King George Street, just past the light at College Avenue, is the site of the lovely pre-Revolutionary War house that now is home to the U.S. Naval Alumni Association.
This exquisite stone building has been home to three Maryland governors, one prior to the establishment of a Union and two since. Record keeping as to home ownership in Annapolis is both delightfully and precisely detailed.
A renowned physician, William Stephenson, was the builder of the house. His sudden passing after its construction in 1739 led to an interesting and history-laden series of owners and occupants. Dr. Stephenson's wife, newly widowed and remarried, rented the house to then-Colonial Governor Samuel Ogle. Governor Ogle used the residence until he died in 1752. His widow passed the lease to her brother, who purchased the house for seventy tons of prime Baltimore pig iron. At his passing, the former Governor's widow, Mrs. Ogle, was now the owner of Ogle Hall. Her will deeded the property to Benjamin Ogle, her son.
Benjamin Ogle was a 'mover and shaker' in the new politics of the forming nation. One of his dinner honorees was rumored to have been George Washington. The only record of the gathering was in Washington's dairy of daily events. The guide who led me through the hall, whispered that it was believed that our first President actually danced at Ogle Hall!
Benjamin Ogle was the owner who made the most additions to the original structure. The staircase, which is supported as a freestanding or cantilevered style; the ballroom, which overlooks the back yard home today to the cedar tree that is decorated every Christmas holiday season; and the three front doors, one of which is called the 'jib' door because it is split into a top and bottom are thought to be his contributions to this house.
Ogle then served as Governor from 1798 until 1801, making him the second Governor to live in Ogle Hall. His estate sold the house in 1815 to Thomas Steele, father-in-law to Maria Key daughter of Francis Scott Key. She and Steele's son, Henry, lived at 248 King George Street.
The house passed through the Steele family and in 1845 was owned by Mrs. Edward Lloyd V. Her son-in-law, Franklin Buchanan, was the first Superintendent at the then Naval School. But Ogle Hall wasn't yet a part of the Naval Academy.
In 1847, Governor Thomas Pratt bought the house for his retirement, making him the third Governor to live at Ogle Hall. Governor Pratt sold the house in 1868 to sitting Judge John Mason and his wife.
Judge Mason's daughter Bettie married 1870 Naval Academy grad Theodoric Porter in 1873. Ens. Porter was the son of post-Civil War Naval Academy reconstructionist, Vice-Admiral David Porter. Bettie Mason Porter and her husband lived in Ogle House and raised their family. The Porter family was in residence until 1945 when their daughter sold the house to the Naval Alumni Association.
The Alumni Association has restored many of the rooms and kept the furnishings accurate to the period. Funding has been provided by class donations and by specific classes 'adopting' certain rooms and renovations.
The Waterford crystal chandelier was donated by the Class of 1918. Front rooms, the main hallway and the ballroom have all been painstakingly restored and accurately displayed with priceless Naval Academy pieces as well as historic china and cabinetry.
This is a jewel among the historic and important residences in Annapolis.