Annapolis uncovered: Behind colonial doors

A haunted house in Annapolis, Maryland (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
A haunted house in Annapolis, Maryland (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
A haunted house in Annapolis, Maryland (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
A haunted house in Annapolis, Maryland (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)

Annapolis, MD — To visit Annapolis is to visit one of our country’s oldest capital cities. A place where Colonial history is vibrantly alive.

Named in honor of Queen Anne, Annapolis boasts more standing 18th century structures than any other city of its size.

For those willing to knock on those doors, they will find over 300 years of American history still very much alive.

Susan Denis, proprietress of Colonial Capital Tours takes visitors behind these doors to discover living American history from the descendants and guardians of the people who strode along the Chesapeake’s shore.

The home is of simple wooden architecture with a sloped roof and front and rear windows. Anne Jensen, the seventth generation descendant of John and Ann Sands answers the rather plain door.

Inside the floorboards are wide and uneven. The staircase is steep, turning and narrow. The rooms hold the very essence of those who have lived within their walls.

Ann is John and Ann Sands great-great-great-great granddaughter.

The Sands bought the house in 1771. It has since become a haven of museum quality relics that reflect the lives of those who have lived there.

It is awe-inspiring to hear Ann speak of her home, a home passed down maternally through seven generations.

In the parlor things look very much as they have for the past 100 years or so. Ann shares with you a letter, written by her ancestor William Sands, a Revolutionary War soldier.

In it he reassures his parents telling them that tales of an inappropriate liaison with a local woman are wholly false.

This very personal communication instantly brings the house and time alive.

On display are the books that belonged to John and Ann Sands and their children.

A “Sailor’s Valentine” sits on a side table. This box of shells was a curio brought back from world travel by Ann’s great-great-grandfather for his bride-to-be.

Upstairs visitors will find many of the original furnishings, dolls and clothing that Ann’s ancestors used every day.

Particularly poignant are the embroidered squares from a Baltimore Album quilt started by Ann’s maiden aunt, but never finished.

From Ann’s home the next stop is the Hammond-Harwood Home. This home sits across the street from the Chase-Lloyd House, home of one of the Declaration of Independence signers.

Elected to the State Legislature, Mathias Hammond, a wealthy and landed tobacco farmer, chose architect William Buckland to design the “Anglo-Palladian Villa,” considered it its day to be one of the finest houses in America.

The home is remarkable, but it is the front door, declared by Thomas Jefferson the most beautiful door in all of America, that first captures your attention.

Other Jefferson connections found in the home include a map by Peter Jefferson, Thomas’ father.

Hammond built the house to entertain influential political guests, but when he failed in his bid for a second term, the home was bought by Jerememiah Towman Chase in 1811 for use by his daughter and her children.

With a wink and a smile, Ms. Denis explains that the house was never in Miss Chase’s name. Instead it was placed in her brother’s name to keep it from falling into the hands of her “gambling husband” who would have, in that time, become owner of any and all of his wives assets.

A grand portrait of George Washington is just one of the many important artworks found in the home. Rembrandt Peale, the son of Charles Willson Peale, created the portrait.

“It is said to be the best likeness of General Washington,” Ms. Denis said. “The horse is slightly carousel looking, and it doesn’t quite match, but it is not displeasing to the eye, and it makes you want to stare at the portrait much longer.”

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