Goodbye Annapolis, Hello Wye House

Annapolis is a city of perceptions. Known as “the historic city,” it was designed to look old. The buildings, lamps, trollies and brick sidewalks all exude the feeling of a city lost in time. The thick, black electricity wires are the only reminder that we are living in the 21st century.

The Paca House and garden.

The Paca House and garden. Source: Benjamin Skolnik

The theme of perceptions is carried into the gardens of William Paca and Charles Carrol, who were both signers of the Declaration of Independence and prominent figures in Annapolis during their time. The gardens were designed to make the house seem grander, its inhabitants larger than life.

Although the beauty of the gardens was made possible by the hard work and maintenance of slaves, they too were made invisible in the overall illusion. Any passerby was left with the impression that if someone was able to maintain control over such an elaborate garden, then surely they deserved their high position in society.

Archaeology is about perceptions as well. All we have left of the past are artifacts and although we can learn a lot from them, they do not speak. What I have learned from digging in Annapolis is that sometimes the only answer to our questions is: We don’t know.

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