“[Annapolis] did not begin with hurriedly built huts, scattered over the surface, that were transformed later into conformable dwellings and arranged with order and symmetry; but from the very first her English colonists seem to have conceived a delightful ideal in the planning of their new city.”
– Henry Randall (1869-1905), Architect, Annapolis Native
Annapolis began with the arrival in the winter of 1649/50 of non-conforming Protestants who, having left Virginia seeking religious freedom, settled on the Severn River near present-day Annapolis. Those associated with the early settlement included Thomas Todd and Richard Acton, who took up land on the neck between the waters later known as the Severn River and Spa Creek. Twenty years after the founding of Providence, the legislature designated Acton’s land across the Severn as an official port of entry. Following the appointment of the third royal governor, Francis Nicholson, in 1694, the General Assembly voted to move the colony’s capital from St. Mary’s City to what was then called Ann Arundell Town.
The end of the Annapolis “golden age”—a period from which much of the city’s most notable architecture dates—came in part because of disruptions in trade caused by the American Revolution and in part from Baltimore’s assuming the role of Maryland’s principal port during the Revolutionary War. Several factors contributed to this shift, including Baltimore’s deep water harbor, its access to the wheat-growing regions of the upper Bay, and its location on the fall line that provided water power for the area’s mills. Society soon followed industry up to Baltimore, so that in 1804, Sir Augustus Foster could write of Annapolis that “The best society used to be found here.”