The Tulip Poplar drawing, used as a logo at the top of the site’s pages, was done by St.Clair Wright. The tulip poplar tree, also called a tulip tree or a yellow poplar tree, is a native American tree whose natural range is the eastern United States. The Liriodendron tulipifera has an ultimate height of 150 feet according to Donald Wyman’s book Trees for American Gardens. They are long lived; George Washington planted the tulip poplar trees still growing at Mt. Vernon.
In Annapolis, the tree that served as the Liberty Tree–the site of seditious revolutionary discussions and plots– was a tulip poplar growing on the campus of St. John’s College. That tree died in the latter part of the 20th century, after the American Bicentennial. St.Clair Wright did this logo for Historic Annapolis who used it on many pamphlets and brochures.
In 1986 St.Clair Wright and Barbara Paca-Steele published an article in the Journal of Garden History (vol 6 number 4) on the mathematics of an eighteenth century wilderness garden–the Paca Garden. The tulip poplar logo decorates the garden plans in the article.
The article discusses the geometric and mathematical layout of the Paca Garden and the Paca House. The house is not aligned with the center part of the garden but is off-center. Using an 18th century surveyor’s measurement called Gunter’s Chain, a distance of 66 feet, the house location and the garden divisions all work out to be on a grid of equal rectangles.
Liriodendron tulipifera “tulip” flower
Photo by Jane Shelby Richardson
The main block of the house is centered on one of three lines that divide the garden lengthwise into three equal sections. One wing goes to the edge of the garden and the other wing to the other line dividing the garden lengthwise into three sections. The two upper terraces are at 25% and 50% of the length of the garden. The lowest terrace is closer than 75% of the length of the garden, a device to make a garden appear longer than it really is. The wilderness garden is the same size as the first terrace but the middle terrace is shorter by 25%. Archeology showed that the features in the wilderness garden shown in Charles Wilson Peale’s portrait of Paca were not imagined but really existed. The foundation of the garden pavilion is in the dead center of the garden, aligned to the steps and the walkway. The spring house and the bridge over the water feature were also archeologically documented. Evidence of the location of the steps and the walkway along each terrace also was found. And, the garden wall was constructed prior to the planting of the garden so the entire project was planned by Paca initially.
St.Clair Wright, Barbara Paca and Dr. Anne Yentsch received a grant in 1980 from the James Marston Fitch Foundation, the foundation’s first grant, to study the geometric composition of three gardens and this article is the result of the study of one of the three, the Paca Garden. The two other gardens investigated were not Annapolis gardens.
The Role of Government Funding in the Restoration
Historic Annapolis, Incorporated, was founded in 1952 and run by volunteers for its first years. Projects were funded by soliciting donations from the Naval Academy alumni, by politicians on the local, county, state and federal levels helping to obtain grants, by soliciting public and private foundations for contributions and by asking local bankers and businessmen with influence in Annapolis to help with mortgaging purchased properties at a favorable rate. The seed money, the revolving fund, was used and reused as houses were bought, restored, and sold with historic easements.
With the American Bicentennial in 1976 on the horizon, federal money for historic preservation increased. From the late 1960s there were more federal grants available for restoration and for projects. Annapolis certainly qualified: the State House is the oldest center of government in continuous use in America and the city of Annapolis was the new nation’s first Capitol. The Treaty of Paris, officially ending the Revolutionary War, was ratified here in 1783. George Washington resigned his commission as Commander and Chief of the Army in this State House. The Constitution requires a separation of the military and the civilian government and Washington’s resignation from the military role made his presidency of the new United States possible.
With the Annapolis City Council passing an Historic District Ordinance in 1966, protecting 1150 buildings and establishing a city Historic District Commission Historic Annapolis Incorporated, a private organization, continued to work to preserve and restore the buildings in the newly designated historic district, but had the power of the city behind them.
The 1992 Legacy for Annapolis Statement
Following is the complete text of St. Clair Wright’s 1992 statement she titled
A PRESENT AND FUTURE LEGACY FOR ANNAPOLIS.
Once Historic Annapolis was the only city organization involved in preservation in Annapolis, a city with architecural and historical resources without peer in America. It is now a Registered National Landmark, the highest honor awarded by the nation to an historic site. And there is a dawning recognition that historic preservation has assets and liabilities that impact on all city properties and elements. The challenge is to use all these assets to the benefit of the city while minimizing liabilities that deter enhancement of its unparalleled resources. Mayor Alfred Hopkins, aware of the city’s stake in historic preservation, is beginning a discussion of the possibilities in a joint approach to preservation with Historic Annapolis Foundation’s present administration and local conservationists.
Annapolis, a city with exceptional attributes for a great future, needs only a population and city administration willing to use these attributes wisely, preserving and protecting the beauty of its natural setting, the splendor of its four centuries of architecture and history of exceptional significance. I see Annapolis as such a rare treasure that, if cherished by its residents, governing institution and business people, all will be rewarded with cultural stimulation, pleasant living and a viable and stable economy.
My vision has been to create a plan of action to free Annapolis from the lethargy and ignorance that has long prevented its full emergence as a truly complete environment for fruitful living, historic enlightenment and economic stability.
To this end in the past forty years I have endeavored and sometimes succeeded in saving buildings and sites of importance in the development of this community and preventing those that would disfigure. Annapolis is surely a Public Trust, thanks to the many advocates and public organizations who have shared in this task.
HOWEVER THERE IS MORE TO SAVE AND MORE TO CHERISH AND CERTAIN PROJECTS are fundamental to the continuing preservation of Annapolis as a Public Trust. They are:
I. THE ADOPTION OF A PRESERVATION STRUCTURE committeed to restoring and keeping safe the buildings, waterways and monuments of this city. Based on an overview of forty years of preservation, I believe this can be accomplished best by a partnership of city, county, and those private organizations with an intense commitment to preservation and the environmental conservation. As a beginning, a preservation partnership between the City of Annapolis and Historic Annapolis Foundation should create a vigorous structure with resources and leadership needed to regain some of the initiatives and programs of the founders of Historic Annapolis, Inc, such as:
a) Officers and staff of experienced and passionate preservationists unfazed by unpopularity and willing to blaze new trails and improve old ones;
b) A focus on historic restorations, urban and environmental enhancement combined with a willingness to accept and implement the everyday hard work required for city saving.
II. REVOLVING FUND restructured and refinanced to implement the original programs envisioned by its first directors. These programs must be augmented by inclusion of the successful but now abandoned program pioneered by the Port of Annapolis, Inc, to purchase historic structures for commercial rental and/or sale with protective easements. Additionally, the revolving fund must be able to purchase and hold for resale some of the museum type buildings now for sale on the Annapolis market, e.g. Brice House, Tulip Hill, 10 Francis Street, the Maynard Houses and Cornhil Street houses.
III. THE COMPLETION OF A MUSEUM of the City of Annapolis to enlighten its citizens and visitors is a fundamental function of a preservation and historical organization. The museum will exhibit tangible evidence of the culture, technology and everyday life of the four centuries of people who built this town we use today and continue the Museum Without Walls program with educational tours and media programs. Investment to date in the museum includes carefully prepared plans (20+ years in the making), and almost a million dollars expended on preliminary architectural designs, a building program, exhibit studies, site acquisition and museum consultants. The Museum is small, its interpretive content and site was selected by a study panel funded by the National Endowment for Humanities consisting of professional museum authorities, planners, and representatives of local cultural organizations. The panel selected museum themes to interpret the history, culture and technology of Annapolis. All that is needed to bring the Preservation Keep into being is cooperation between the City and Historic Annapolis to use the designated funds and site for its beginning. The project as planned is compelling and marketable.
IV. USING TO FULL ADVANTAGE the superb resources of the Preservation Data Bank by structuring special programs to provide researchers, architects, homeowners and others with a workable plan of access to the Historic Annapolis Preservation Data Bank which was funded by NEH to benefit the public.
The Bank contains research findings from Maryland archives identifying property owners and their occupations. Information on these inhabitants includes their occupations and marital, economic and religious status from 1710 until 1820. There are also carefully researched restoration drawings of 1,600+ buildings. As a result, the Preservation Data Bank is able to provide property owners, the city, architects and others with immediate access to documented research materials. For example: information provided on a Saturday at the request of the Fire Chief documented the original architecture of Fran O’Brien’s at the time when the building was on fire thereby enabling the firefighters to contain the fire by removing the architecturally unimportant fourth floor.
According to the original plan, when the Preservation Data Bank is complete, it will include data on cultural materials associated with Annapolis, e.g. furnishings and decorative arts, artifacts from archaeological excavations, graphics, and references to Anne Arundel County’s furnishings and fine arts owned by museums in other areas.
The Data Bank is almost complete. Historic Annapolis as its curator must devise the means to make it accessible to all.
SUMMARY: Forty years of preservation clearly illustrates the need for commitment to the best principles of a Public Trust dedicated to preserving, restoring and keeping safe the buildings, waterways and the 1696 baroque street plan of this city. Providing the data and a museum to encourage an appreciation of the treasures of Annapolis is an important component for successful commitment to save the glorious past of Annapolis for ourselves and coming generations.
WE MUST SUPPORT FOUR IMPERATIVES essential to a glorious future for Maryland’s Capitol City:
I. A Preservation Partnership between nonprofits, restoration and conservation organizations and the City of Annapolis;
II. A Revolving Fund for restoration and enhancement of Historic District properties and environment;
III. A museum for the City of Annapolis:
IV. Workable access to the Preservation Data Bank for scholars, architects, property owners and public officials.
For Further Reading
- The Mathematics of an Eighteenth Century Wilderness Garden by Barbara Paca-Steele and St. Clair Wright in the Journal of Garden History (London) Vol 6 number 4, pages 299-320
- Earth Patterns: Essays in Landscape Archeology edited by William M. Kelso and Rachel Most published by University Press of Virginia, 1990. The article by Mark Leone and Paul Shackel, Plane and Solid Geometry in Colonial Gardens in Annapolis Maryland, discusses the original city plan of 1695 and the geometry of both William Paca and Charles Carroll of Carrolton gardens.