With the holidays upon us, I remember fondly my favorite Christmas as a youth living in our third-floor apartment on Main Street.
As I recount in my book, Memoirs of a Main Street Boy, it was 1946; I was 13 and gathered with my mom and dad in our living room overlooking Main Street.
I opened several boxes from under the tree – only to find a sweater, shirt and some socks. I tried to hide my disappointment, but I’m sure it was quite apparent. I cheered up when my mom said she had forgotten a gift in the hall outside the living room.
I opened the door to the hall and magic happened. There stood a brand new, apple red Schwinn bike with a basket on the handle bars! My mom, in her frugal way, had put away a dollar a week from the preceding year to afford that $50 bike.
That bike meant many things to me – freedom to explore, equality with friends with bikes, and a coveted job delivering our local paper, The Evening Capital.
The Evening Capital was located on Church Circle across Northwest Street from the post office. The news room was located on the first floor and the press was sunk below the floor where the ground could hold its massive weight. The smell of printer’s ink and the loud rolling of the presses fascinated me, perhaps my first influence for a later career as a journalist.
My paper route led me down College Avenue toward the Naval Academy and to the grand homes connected to three of Maryland’s four signers of the Declaration of Independence – Thomas Stone, Samuel Chase and William Paca. The fourth, Charles Carroll of Carrollton lived in a still-standing mansion on Spa Creek, behind what is now St. Mary’s Church. By their signatures on the Declaration, these men put their fortunes and their lives on the line to gain freedom from British domination.
When I delivered papers on Hanover Street, I passed the house at 207, which belonged to Anthony Stewart, who was forced to burn his ship, The Peggy Stewart (named after his daughter), when it was found to harbor 17½ chests of forbidden tea from England, an event equal to the Boston Tea Party. “In a final fitting irony,” one historian wrote of the Stewarts, “their house on Hanover Street was sold in 1783 to Thomas Stone.”
Leaving Hanover Street, my paper route took me to King George Street where, on the corner of Maryland Avenue stood the Chase-Lloyd House. The Chase of “Chase-Lloyd” was Samuel Chase, called the “torch that lit the revolutionary flame in Maryland.”
Torch-like he was, with a hot temper and incendiary political oratory that led the fight for absolute independence. Ultimately nominated to the Supreme Court by George Washington, Chase had earlier financial difficulties that led to his sale of his mansion before it was finished. He sold the half-built home to wealthy planter Edward Lloyd IV, whose daughter, Mary, was married to a young lawyer in the Chase-Lloyd House in 1802. His name was Francis Scott Key.
Delivering papers on King George Street took me past the tree-lined driveway entrance to Annapolis’ grand hotel, Carvel Hall. Elegant in its own right, Carvel Hall had added allure because it was connected to, and built on, the one-time garden of William Paca’s mansion. The house, on Prince George Street, served as a dwelling until 1907, when it was purchased for construction of the 200-room hotel. The hotel used the Paca House as a reception and registration center.
William Paca lived in the house only until 1774, when his wife Mary passed away. While her death ended his affection for the house, his affection for liberty was stronger than ever. During the Revolution, Paca spent thousands of dollars of his own money to supply American troops. He became a Maryland delegate to the First Continental Congress, a willing signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a supporter of the new Constitution.
Paca’s patriotic fervor led George Washington to declare: “If it weren’t for William Paca and others like him, there would be no United States of America.”
Little did I realize in the 1940s that I was riding my bike past the homes of three Annapolitans without whom there would be no United States of America.
A native Annapolitan, Mr. Crosby is founder and chairman of Crosby Marketing, a national advertising/public relations firm headquartered in Annapolis. His book, Memoirs of a Main Street Boy, is available at the Annapolis Bookstore, at Back Creek Books on Main Street or online at Amazon.com.