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A tour through history: Annapolis by Candlelight shines light on historic stewardship


Source: Capital Gazette, E.B. Furgurson III

It’s that time of year again: The Annapolis by Candlelight tour.

The 28th annual tour of the fine homes in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Annapolis celebrates the variety of homes and highlights the current owners’ stewardship.

And it is one of Historic Annapolis’ favorite events of the year, benefiting its programs.

Most of the homes this year, 10 in all, were built in the early 20th century by business owners, Naval Academy officers and civic leaders. They have quietly passed from family to family in the ensuing years. A list of homes is available online at

What they have in common is an effort to maintain the homes, either adhering to the original bones and finishes or modernizing them with just a nod to the past.

Murray Hill was not born until James D. Murray contracted with an attorney to divide and develop the residential neighborhood on a 100-acres section of Annapolis sprawling between West Street and Spa Creek.

The land had been owned by a list of the families that steered Annapolis from its 17th-century infancy to the turn of the 20th century — Acton, Hammond, Duvall and, finally, Murray.

Sales were slow at first until the Naval Academy expanded and the Annapolis Emergency Hospital grew on the neighborhood’s edge downhill from the Anne Arundel County Courthouse on Church Circle.

One of the homes on the tour is the oldest of the bunch, 23 Southgate Ave., owned for the past two years by Tamara and Patrick Dowd. The Colonial revival was built between 1900 and 1903 by John and Harriet Douw. John Douw was the mayor of Annapolis from 1905 to 1907 after serving as a Navy officer in the Spanish-American War. He returned to uniform after his term, serving as an Army officer in World War I.

Rear Adm. Hubert Strange and his family owned the house until 1990. The next owners performed major renovations that added modern touches years ago that are in demand today.

Now the Dowds have painted most of the house white to make the older features like original newel posts and their growing art collection pop.

The second floor has been converted into a virtual one-bedroom suite with a master bedroom, gym and study occupying the floor. Third-floor bedrooms are mostly used by midshipmen sponsored by the family.

Another element of longevity is the original glass in the massive window on the first floor and original glass in transoms above upper floor doors.

“Most of the work has been the finishes,” Tamara Dowd said. “We painted everything white, it makes the elements so sculptural. You see shadows you would not see with the natural finishes.”

After years of moving around, the couple hopes they have settled in Annapolis.

“This is our seventh house, and I hope our last,” Dowd said. “We have lived in open space concepts. But in the two years we have been here, over time we have come to appreciate the defined spaces. The ceiling height does not make you feel closed in. And the natural light through the large windows is so amazing it adds intimacy to every little space.”

They have made other changes outside of the finishes and more are likely to come.

“We did not want to do something completely nuts but something in the spirit of the house. I am always working to make a modern space within the history.”

Other homes on the tour include other colonial revivals, 20th-century vernacular and a classic four-square home, most built before 1930 or in the 1940s.

The program accompanying the self-guided, self-paced tour includes historical and architectural notes on each written by Glenn E. Campbell, the senior historian at Historic Annapolis, who turned to several of the well-documented books and research materials gathered over the years on the subject.

The tour can be completed at the visitor’s pace between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday night. Tickets purchased for the event, now at $40 per person after the early bird pricing period, are good for both nights.

Volunteers from Historic Annapolis await visitors at each home to guide answer questions. Each property owner decides how much of the home will be open for the tour.

In addition to the tour, tickets are available for a VIP reception, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. each night at Metropolitan Kitchen and Lounge with light fare and one drink included.

Tour and reception tickets are available at the Candlelight Tour will call stations at the corner of Franklin Street and Murray Avenue or West Street and Colonial Avenue.

Several Annapolis restaurants are offering 10% to 20% discounts for ticket holders. The participating establishments include Luna Blu, Harry Browne’s, Stan and Joe’s, Buddy’s Crab and Ribs, Lighthouse Bistro, Middleton Tavern, Reynold’s Tavern, Cafe Normandie and Metropolitan Kitchen and Lounge.

When You Go:

What: Annapolis by Candlelight Tour

When: 5 to 9 p.m. on Nov. 8 and 9

Where: Murray Hill Neighborhood

Tickets: $40, $125 for a membership special that includes two tour tickets, a one-year Historic Annapolis membership at sponsorship level and a Smithsonian Affiliate membership. Visit

Parking: Park where you can. City parking garages are the best bet.