We spent week before New Year’s Day in Annapolis, Maryland with Larry’s family (his parents, his two sisters and their families, our family). We were in a lovely renovated old home in the historic district, only a block from the dignified and elegant State House.
Maryland’s 1772 State House is the oldest U.S. state capitol building in continuous legislative use. I know this both because it is written on a plaque in front of the building, and because I inadvertently joined William’s Annapolis walking tour.
Amy and I were tooling around the State House, reading plaques in the new and old senate and assembly rooms, when I spotted a black man addressing a group of tourists. We’ll call him William, because (spoiler) that turned out to be his name.
William was wearing a colonial outfit with a jacket and knee breeches, topped off with a tricorn hat and one of those old-timey wigs with the two curly ringlets in the front. It was a little hard to take him seriously with the ringlets, but he clearly knew his stuff.
“Cool,” I thought, “He must work for the State House giving free tours,” so I followed him around and listened. At the conclusion of his talk, William got very animated as he talked about the 14 presidents who came before George Washington.
Are you startled to hear that there were 14 presidents before George Washington? Then you would be putty in William’s hands. He urged us all to go to the lobby of the Westin Hotel up the road where there was an exhibit about the 14 presidents before Washington.
“Huh,” I thought, “Random. I wonder if anyone ever actually goes to that hotel lobby to see that exhibit?”
Fast forward to the next day, when me, my three daughters, and Larry’s sister Beth showed up for the hourly tour at the historic Hammond-Harwood house.
As we were waiting in the gift shop, the previous tour approached, and I heard a man say “Were you aware that there were 14 presidents before George Washington? You should go to the exhibit at the Westin Hotel.”
Sure enough, our tour guide was the same man I had followed around at the State House. William, now wearing civvies and an attractive wool patchwork flat cap, introduced himself, and I asked about his other job at the State House.
“Oh no,” he said, “I don’t work for the State House; I give private walking tours of Annapolis,” which was when I realized that I had jacked his tour. He was nice about it.
We very much enjoyed William’s tour of the Hammond-Harwood house. My daughters especially liked his description of some reclusive spinsters who lived in the home. I am paraphrasing, but it went something like “Just because they weren’t out flapping their gums 24-7, people thought they were strange.”
William also talked quite a bit about the American flag before the Betsy Ross model. It went through more iterations than I had realized, including some cool eight-pointed stars. Ellen didn’t quite believe him, so she was fact-checking on her smart phone as he talked, and he called her on it, which I thought was great.
“Am I right, Miss?” And he was!
The tour ended with another exhortation to see the Westin Hotel exhibit about the 14 presidents before George Washington.
Reader, I saw it. I pleaded with Larry to stop in on the way to the Safeway to get dinner supplies, and he obliged.
It was only OK, but by God, I was determined that at least one person should follow through on William’s advice.
(BTW, the 14 presidents before George Washington were the presidents of the Continental Congress, because there wasn’t really a United States yet, but it’s still a fun fact!)