The Government House
Taking a spin around Church Circle at any time of year means visually visiting St. Anne’s Church, the Courthouse, and the Governor’s Residence. This particular building is formally known as The Government House and is managed by a coalition of the Government House Trust and the Department of General Services.
The long and complicated route to this house started in 1733 when the General Assembly voted to purchase land and construct a permanent residence for the governor. Governor Thomas Bladen bought four acres near College Creek in 1742 and the saga began. Bad blood between Bladen and the Maryland House of Delegates resulted in shutting down the project and that structure was donated to St. John’s College. It was completed after the Revolutionary War and stands today as McDowell Hall.
The Jennings House on Prince George Street became the rental home of Provincial Governor Horatio Sharpe. Maryland’s last Provincial Governor, Robert Eden, purchased the property in 1769. With his departure, the General Assembly asked the state to intervene and acquire the house for the Governor’s Mansion. Thus for the next ninety years, Maryland’s governors and their families had a place to live.
The Victorian Age in Annapolis pushed for a more elegant and modern governor’s house. The Jennings House was sold to the Naval Academy and the new, beautiful mansion, located just yards from the State House, was ready for occupancy in 1870.
Governor Oden Bowie and his family were the first residents in 1870.
The Georgian style Government House became a handsome backdrop for exquisite furnishings and historic paintings. Throughout the public rooms, there are fine examples of Maryland artisans, such as the charming Thomas Cook clock in the entrance hall. The graceful, winding staircase banister was painstakingly raised six inches to ensure the safety of former Governor Ehrlich’s young children without compromising the historical significance of the original woodwork.
The Federal Parlor and the Drawing Room each have historic paintings. The Parlor has a Thomas Sheppard mural of Washington resigning while the Drawing Room has Charles Willson Peale’s famous portrait of George Washington.
The house belongs to the entire Maryland family but the reality of everyday families living there has required updated, modifications. Modern redos have included a bathtub in the private quarters and a normal sized refrigerator for everyday use.
This exceptional building went through its most complete renovation in 1935. The roof was overhauled with the interior brought into code for electric and plumbing. The archives were revisited to insure the correct colors as well as the placement of historic treasures.
Not all governors have chosen to move their families into the house. But nearly all official entertaining has taken place there. A full staff makes certain that visiting dignitaries from Presidents to international royalty are comfortable and treated to fine Maryland dining and entertainment.
Most Marylanders don’t realize that the house is open for tours three days each week, if they call ahead to make call reservations. Governor William Donald Schaefer truly opened the doors to everyone when he instituted the New Year Open House. Thousands of locals have walked through this holiday decorated mansion and enjoyed the hospitality of the Governor and his family.
The Government House boasts a beautiful outdoor fountain that Governor Schaefer had designed in 1990 for his love and official hostess, Hilda Mae Snoops. Ever the thrifty official, Schaefer had the entire project privately funded.
From it’s inception as a gracious house for the highest ranking Maryland executive to today’s playground for the families of officeholders, the Government House stands as proudly and resolute as all of Maryland and all Marylanders.