Archives proposes historical facelift for Maryland State House

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A stroll through the Maryland State House might give a visitor the impression that the state's government skipped the 19th century. The building's rich 18th-century history, when it was the capitol of the fledgling American nation, is on display in the Old Senate Chamber. Exhibits in three adjoining rooms give a glimpse of what life was like when the Continental Congress was in town in the late 1700s. And modern government is on display in the "new" Senate and House of Delegates chambers, where the General Assembly has met for the last 100 years. But there's nothing to mark the historic events that took place in the 1800s.

"We've overlooked the point in time that is crucial to understanding the development of our government," said Edward C. Papenfuse, the state archivist. Lawmakers meeting in the old House chamber expanded voting rights, adopted the constitution of 1864 that ended slavery and, three years later, approved a new constitution that still governs Maryland today.

To correct the oversight, the Maryland State Archives is proposing a partial restoration of the old House chamber to the high Victorian style of the late 1800s. It's the key element in a plan to make the State House more friendly to visitors, giving them a better understanding of the momentous events that took place in Annapolis since the original building was constructed between 1772 and 1779.

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