William Paca House
This five-part Georgian mansion was built in the 1760s by William Paca, one of Maryland’s four Signers of the Declaration of Independence and the state’s third Governor. Carefully restored by Historic Annapolis beginning in 1965, today it is recognized as one of the finest 18th-century homes in the country and a National Historic Landmark. Guided tours of the house, which features period furnishings and paintings, reveal the inner workings of an upper-class household in colonial and revolutionary Annapolis.
Painstakingly restored to its original splendor using details drawn from historic artwork and archaeological excavations, the two-acre colonial William Paca Garden is a picturesque retreat from the bustle of the city. Visitors can view native and heirloom plants while exploring the terraced landscape’s formal Parterres, naturalistic Wilderness, and practical Kitchen garden. The charming Summerhouse beckons guests to cross the latticework bridge over a fish-shaped pond. The garden frequently hosts weddings, receptions, and other special events.
History of the William Paca House and Garden
William Paca was a patriot leader who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and served as the State of Maryland’s third Governor. After marrying the wealthy and well-connected Mary Chew in 1763, the young lawyer built a five-part brick house and terraced pleasure garden on two acres of land in Annapolis. The couple had three children, but only one of them survived to adulthood, and they cared for an orphaned niece for several months. In addition to Paca family members, the mansion also housed a number of servants and slaves.
After William Paca sold it in 1780, the house continued as a single-family home until 1801, then served mainly as a rental property for much of the 19th century. In 1864, it was purchased by Catherine Steele Ray, a widow whose sons-in-law, both graduates of the nearby U.S. Naval Academy, fought on opposite sides in the Civil War.
National tennis champion William Larned bought the property in 1901 and converted it into a hotel, with a large addition attached to the back of the colonial house and extending over most of the old garden. For much of the 20th century, Carvel Hall was Annapolis’s finest hotel. One African-American staff member, Marcellus Hall, came to personify the hotel’s famed hospitality for generations of guests. He started working as a bellboy in 1913 and retired as Superintendent of Services when Carvel Hall shut its doors for the last time in 1965.
Concerned that developers might tear down the home of a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Historic Annapolis and the State of Maryland bought the Paca mansion and the rest of the Carvel Hall site in 1965. Over the next decade, a team of experts—archival researchers, archaeologists, architectural historians, paint analysts, x-ray photographers, carpenters, masons, landscape designers, horticulturists, and other skilled professionals—restored the William Paca House and Garden to their 18th-century appearances. The site was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1971.
William Paca House and Garden
The William Paca House and Garden is currently closed for the winter, and will re-open in March 2021.
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