ANNAPOLIS — Outgoing Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley expressed gratitude and a sentiment for history Friday morning as he presented the restoration progress of the Old Senate Chamber in the Maryland State House in Annapolis.
Giving a brief tour, O’Malley spoke of the significance of the room and its place in the history of the state and the United States.
“This room has to be the most significant room in this State House,” O’Malley said. “You can’t walk into this room without imagining (George) Washington and (Thomas) Jefferson and (James) Madison and (Marquis de) Lafayette and John Hanson and all the other of our founders.”
Numerous historical events occurred in the Old Senate Chamber, while Annapolis served as the nation’s capital from November 1783 to August 1784. It was where Washington resigned as the leader of the Continental Army in 1783 and was the ratification site of the Treaty of Paris in 1784, which officially ended the Revolutionary War.
The Senate convened in the chamber from 1779 to 1905. In 1905, the addition to the State House was complete and the state senate moved into its current meeting area.
The restored chamber will have Washington’s resignation speech on display. Also, two pillars from the original chamber along with the niche and dais were salvaged and will be used in the restored version.
The goal of the project is to have the chamber returned to its look from 1783.
The restoration is on track to finish by Feb. 10., according to project manager. Mark Schneidman, an architect for state’s Department of General Services’ Office of Facilities Planning, Design and Construction.
Upon its completion, the chamber will be open to the public. It will feature numerous exhibits such as the Washington resignation, the Treaty of Paris and the history of Annapolis.
This is not the first time this room underwent changes. The chamber was completely remodeled in the late 1870s, with all of the original architecture and the visitor’s gallery removed. It was then restored in 1905 and modified and furnished in 1940.
In 2007, moisture damage forced the state to have the chamber walls replaced. This revealed further damage to the room and prompted additional investigations into problems that are being addressed in the current restoration project. In addition, research showed that early depictions, such as paintings, of of the Old Senate Chamber inaccurately portrayed what the original room looked like.
Schneidman said Friday he would not yet release the final cost for the project.
These findings convinced the state to strip down the chamber and reconstruct it in its original image, including the furnishing and colors, while also addressing other structural damage around the windows.
These changes were administered by using modern reinforcement techniques, such as the use of steel, but at the same time maintaining the traditional look of the room, according to Schneidman. Also, Schneidman said, the door to the chamber is being redone to match the masonry of the original door.
O’Malley, whose last day in office is Tuesday, said he remembered visiting the chamber as a child with his parents and with his fourth grade class. As he prepares to end his term as governor, he expressed thankfulness for his time in Annapolis and for the historical figures who preceded him.
“It makes me grateful for all those people that came before us,” O’Malley said.