"Annapolis and the Making of the Modern Landscape: An Archaeology of History and Tradition" by Christopher Nelson Matthews

Christopher Nelson Matthews

Deposited 1998

This dissertation is an analysis of landscape changes in Annapolis, Maryland from the colonial era through the turn of the twentieth century. The thesis developed argues that culture is the result of the interpretive actions of persons struggling to understand and determine their historical situations. The focus of the analysis is on the evidence found in the development of the Annapolitan landscape which shows how people there made, used, and understood the historical significance of their town and their lives in it.

A specific focus of research is the Bordley-Randall archaeological site. This site was home to some of the Annapolis' great families in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Drawing from the archaeological, architectural, and historical data of this site, as well as comparative material from other sites in Annapolis, the dissertation demonstrates how landscape forms embodied the struggles of wealthy Annapolitans to sustain their positions.

The contexts of Annapolis' political economic development are employed as significant determinative features of the place's identity. From small beginnings, Annapolis rose to a social center during the era of the American Revolution. Landscape forms of that time demonstrate how city leaders sought to elevate themselves to the level of cultural superiority in an effort to gain support for the drive for independence. Later developments in the region around Annapolis peripheralized the small city. In order to remain culturally significant, the city took on the nickname and identity of “The Ancient City” around 1830. Subsequent developments in the city struggled with this identity. Although being Ancient was an attribute, practically, the city struggled to keep pace with modern developments. From the 1840s to the end of the nineteenth-century Annapolis sought out a middle position being both ancient and modern at once. A resolution of this struggle was found at the end of the nineteenth century when national trends led Annapolis to not seek its history, but simply its objectified image as a colonial town.