State Circle is the political center of Maryland. This is where you’ll find the governor’s mansion, state offices and the restaurants where the power-brokers meet. The residential area surrounding the circle contains some of the city’s fanciest mansions and is well worth a walkabout.The road encircling the Maryland state capitol has spokes where roads shoot off in all directions to the other parts of Annapolis, and the state, for that matter.
Maryland State HouseThe State House is located on the top of the hill. It’s the oldest state capitol in continuous use, topped by the largest free-standing wooden dome in the United States. The dome was constructed without nails. Chancery Lane is one of Annapolis’ pedestrian alleys. It’s a shortcut from Main Street to the state capitol. The entrance to the Capitol is on the side away from the waterfront, facing a promenade edged by colonial-style, brick, state office buildings. The main entrance is up the 27 granite steps. However, there’s a ground floor entrance under the steps. Walk around the side of the steps and you’ll see the entrance. No matter which entrance you go through, be prepared to show ID to a guard and walk through a metal detector. The Maryland State House is open to visitors 9am-5pm, daily except for Christmas and New Year’s day. Tours are self-guided, but tour companies offer a stop at the Capitol as part of their look at the city. You can find more information at the Visitor’s Center. The House and Senate chambers are on the second floor. The Governor’s office is on the ground floor. The current House chamber, called the State House Annex, was finished in 1905 and features marble quarried from Italy and Maryland, and five Tiffany leaded glass skylights. The House Chamber seats 141 delegates, three from each of the state’s 47 districts. The meeting for the House of Delegates features marble from Italy and Maryland. Forty-seven Senators fill the smaller room, sitting by party and seniority. The four committee heads sit closest to the rostrum. The state assembly meets each year for 90-days beginning the second Wednesday in January. The Maryland Senate has been meeting in this chamber since 1906. It’s the second largest chamber in the State House and is topped with a Tiffany skylight. Much of the work of the state is done year-round on the ground floor. That’s where the Governor’s office is located, along with the Speaker, assorted staff and media rooms. Basement of the State House, where the nitty-gritty legislative work is done. A shoe-shine stand is available during sessions. You may find proposed legislation (bills) in a rack down the hall from the shoe-shine stand, left out for the public to read. Down a side corridor, you’ll find vending machines and an ATM. The governor’s mansion, called “Government House,” is across the street from the front of the Capitol building, behind a black wrought-iron fence. Maryland governors have been living here since 1870. It’s gone through several renovations and additions. The seven public rooms reflect those eras. Tours of Government House are given on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 10:30am-12:00pm, by appointment only.
The CircleThe capitol is surrounded by a number of Colonial homes, restaurants and inns that cater to politicos during the legislative session, and tourists when the state legislature isn’t meeting. The yellow State House Inn (left) is now a boutique hotel. The terrace was once the town well and fig garden. The little blue building is a law office. There are a few shops, but you’ll find most shopping down the spoke-streets, toward the water. If you’re walking to the historic area, try walking down through a residential area to explore the different style of homes.
There is street parking in this area, but it’s tough to come by. Watch the signs to ensure you don’t park in a reserved spot, and keep track of the time. Annapolis is strict on parking rules.