Step Back Into History at the Inns of Annapolis
By Hope Katz Gibbs
Be Inkandescent Magazine
History is one of the biggest draws for visitors who travel to Annapolis, and a couple of nights spent in any of the three grand Historic Inns of Annapolis offers a taste of what life might have been like back in the 1700s.
Each of the hotels—The Maryland Inn, Governor Calvert House, and Robert Johnson House—is located just steps from the Maryland State House in the Annapolis Historic District. However, you’ll feel like you are staying in wealthy relative’s house, as each residence features Victorian-era style furnishings amid modern conveniences, to provide the best of the old world and the new.
In the Governor Calvert House, in fact, the floor of the parlor is actually a clear veneer that reveals the centuries old original wooden structure beneath. Sit in one of the room’s many armchairs as you enjoy a cup of morning coffee, and envision what Colonial-era merchants might have been discussing as they started their day post-Revolutionary War.
Clean, quiet, and comfortable is the mantra here, and whether you are in town for a getaway with the kids, a romantic weekend or wedding, a sailing trip, reunion, or shopping spree with the girls, you’ll stay in style at any of the Inns. (Scroll down for more details on each of the Inns, so you can pick your favorite to stay in the next time you are in Annapolis.)
Meet the Innkeeper
No trip to the Inns of Annapolis would be complete without a chat with Margaret Bednarsky, known around the Inns as “Ms. Peg.” Named the 2010 Innkeeper of the Year by the Historic Inns of America, she has been overseeing the hotels for more than four decades.
“Our goal is to make every part of the hotel experience so wonderful that our guests will always want to come back to see us,” says Ms. Peg, who began working at the Inns of Annapolis in 1969, shortly after her husband died suddenly of a heart attack at age 49.
“I had three children and needed to keep the family going,” she confides. “When a friend of mine told me about a job at the Inns, I applied and was accepted. Working here kept my sanity intact through that period in my life, and it has kept me going ever since.”
Now 82, this dynamic woman with a heart of gold is the official historian of the Inns, and she is the go-to gal for the multitude of politicos who live in the Inns during the winter months when the legislature at the State House is in session.
“Ms. Peg is the one whom the Senators call when they need anything at all,” says Pam Aber, director of sales at the Historic Inns of Annapolis. “They have her cell phone number and don’t hesitate to use it. She comes in on weekends and is always happy to lend a hand whenever we need her during our busiest days. She’s everyone’s second mom, and I am very grateful to have her in my life.”
Ms. Peg says that it’s her honor to continue to work at the Inns, and over the years she has met her share of celebrities. Among the most notable are former U.S. Senator Bob Dole, the 66th US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and most recently, a delegation of Chinese dignitaries that was in town.
Some of her fondest memories, though, come from working with the families of those that attend the US Naval Academy.
“I have watched young men become husbands, fathers, and grandfathers,” she says. “Many of them come back and get married here, return for reunions, and then send their children to the Naval Academy. I can’t count how many continue to keep in touch with me, and it’s always a pleasure and honor to learn about how their lives have evolved. I think that is one of my most treasured parts of the job.”
Does Ms. Peg have any plans for retirement?
“I’m afraid to stop,” she says with a chuckle. “I plan to do this job for as long as I can. Of course, if there comes a day when I’m not capable of keeping up, then I’ll know it. But for now it drives me to stay on top of my game so I can be a help to the rest of the staff. After all, I need to earn my keep.”
With three hotels to choose from, what’s your pleasure?
Following is a brief description of each of the buildings. While they all offer simple but lovely furnishings, clean bathing areas, and complimentary coffee and a newspaper in the morning, each has its own unique flair.
The Maryland Inn, 58 State Circle: The crown jewel of the Historic Inns of Annapolis portfolio, this building has boarded presidents, statesmen, and political dignitaries since the late 1700s. You’ll be charmed by the 44-room setting, which feels more like a B&B than a hotel. Decorated with beautifully restored Victorian-era reproductions, the rooms have views of the waterfront, Main Street, and the State House. (At night, the view of the lit State House is quite the sight.)
The Treaty of Paris restaurant (pictured right), is also located in this hotel. History suggests that this was a go-to spot for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and one of Benjamin Franklin’s favorite places to drink and play cards. Today, the restaurant serves regional cuisine and fresh seafood. It is open most nights for dinner, but often parties and weddings are booked, so call ahead.
Downstairs in the hotel is another historic room, which was once the home of a famous jazz club and now houses a Starbucks coffee shop. Head to the back of the store for a peek at the entrance to a secret tunnel that is rumored to have been the entry point for “ladies of the night” to make their way to the State House for a tryst with some of the Founding Fathers.
Governor Calvert House, 58 State Circle: Located just a block off of Main Street in Annapolis, this hotel is a stone’s throw from the State House, and was once the residence of two former Maryland governors. The 51-room landmark also features access to the peaceful Colonial Gardens and provides charming boutique-lodging in the Annapolis Historic District. Modern conveniences are available, of course, including high-speed Internet access and cable TV. No matter which of the hotels you stay in, you’ll have the opportunity to tour this property, for the Governor Calvert House serves as the check-in point for each of the Historic Inns of Annapolis hotels. Valet parking is available here, too.
Robert Johnson House, 23 State Circle: Overlooking the State House and Governor’s Mansion, the 29-room Robert Johnson House was built in 1773. Elegantly appointed accommodations in the heart of downtown Annapolis are furnished with beautiful 19th century antiques and period reproductions. “The brick Robert Johnson House is a beautiful example of the Georgian style architecture of historic Colonial Annapolis,” says Ms. Peg.