HistoryQuest.Then and Now
The charming anchor buildings at 99 and 77 Main Street in Annapolis are two exquisite architectural structures of early American history. Our capital is home to more colonial buildings (1500) than any other U.S. city.
Both the museum shop at 77 Main St. and the newly rehabilitated home of the St. Clair Wright Center for HistoryQuest at 99 Main St. are owned and operated by the Historic Annapolis Foundation.
The building at 77 Main Street had a humble beginning: it is listed in very early surveys of Arundeltown as “Todd’s Pasture.” Annapolis’ first mayor, Amos Garrett, bought the site in 1712 and his heirs sold it to Charles Carroll in late 1737.
Carroll subdivided and leased the parcels of land to a series of tenants who, no doubt envisioning the city centuries down the road, created a panoply of uses. There were both residences and businesses on the site. The first business recorded was a bakery owned by John Chalmers in 1747. In 1789, the new owner in this prime location was Richard Fleming. His shoe repair shop failed so he reinstated the bakery, but a suspicious fire burned his building and the entire block.
In 1810, 77 Main Street was rebuilt as the military provision warehouse it had been during the Revolutionary War.
99 Main was rebuilt in 1791 by Frederick Grammar. The Georgian style house and a smaller brick kitchen building attached in the back and on top of the remains of the Fleming kitchen, are almost precisely what exists today. Grammar finalized the purchase of the land from the Carroll heirs in 1792 and leased the front to merchant Lewis Neth while the Grammar bakery, in the rear, flourished. The 1857 owner, Dennis Claude, Jr., separated the structure, thus establishing 196 Green Street as the rear building.
Main Street bustled into another new century. City logs indicate 99 Main was home to nearly every type of business that was necessary both then and now: dry goods, watch repair, boarding house—even a pet shop.
In 1957, the city intended to raze the old building, when the angels known as Port of Annapolis (all members of the Historic Annapolis Foundation) purchased and rescued the building. The subsequent renovation and refurbishing of 99 Main initiated the complete ‘rebuild’ of what is today’s invaluable City Dock.
With the departure of Sign o’ The Whale, HAF went into full rehabilitation mode. An archeology team recovered and catalogued over 7000 artifacts from the floor of the original kitchen. Even charred bits from the 1789 fire were found.
The Foundation developed a comprehensive plan in 2003 to update the ‘bones’ of the building, modernize the pipes, electricity and air conditioning, even upgrading the site for handicapped access. The three million dollar rehab as well as the growth of exhibits and the information center have been borne by donors, members and grants.
Named in memory of Anne St. Clair Wright, a driving force in Annapolis preservation, the Center is a starting spot for all who want to explore the rich and fascinating history around every corner.
There are walking tours, guided tours and even small bus tours of all the Historic Annapolis Foundation sites. Visit 99 Main Street both in person and at its website at www.annapolis.org.