At the time, a new National Constitution Center had recently opened in Philadelphia, focusing on the 1787-89 Constitutional Convention. The National Constitution Center's success in restoring the blighted end of Philadelphia's mall as well as the impressive pairing of a modern, high-tech interpretive center with one of the most important historical sites in the country (Independence Hall) led to a response to Mr. Kent's challenge: to build a National Continental Congress Center in Annapolis that would focus on the years before the Constitutional Convention, from 1774-87, when the United States was governed under the Continental Congress and the Articles of Confederation by 14 Presidents of Congress meeting in 8 different cities (before Washington, DC.), including Annapolis, where many of the most important events after the Revolutionary War took place.
The suggested site was the Old Recreation Center (above), which has been abandoned for several years now. With its downstairs exhibit rooms and kitchen, and its upstairs gymnasium--perfect for conversion into a theater--as well as its proximity to the Annapolis Waterfront Marriott and the City Dock area, it seemed like a natural use of an empty building with an architectural style that fit the colonial period.
The second step was to create a place that would symbolize the project's objective, so in 2013, the ACCS opened up a permanent exhibit in the Crown and Crab Room in the Maryland Inn (above), next to the Treaty of Paris Restaurant. The exhibit features laser replicas of a collection of originals owned by the Brown family of Annapolis consisting of documents signed by "America's 14 Forgotten Presidents of Congress," including color portraits and bios describing who they were and what is taking place in the documents. This free exhibit rings the room and can be seen on a daily basis. The 15th piece of the exhibit, which includes George Washington's portrait, a copy of the speech he wrote when he resigned from the Army, and his bio, is the last part of the display so that visitors realize that the 14 Presidents of Congress preceded Washington. This room also serves as the central location for Continental Congress-themed events, thus providing this history with a kind of "temporary" home.
The first part of the ACCS merged with the First Federal Congress Project at The George Washington University to become the National Continental Congress Historical Society, which has one goal: to build a National Continental Congress Center closer to the nation's capital. The target site is Maryland's National Harbor (left), across the Potomac River from Alexandria, Virginia and Mount Vernon. Before National Harbor, this site was the final resting place of a former President of Congress, John Hanson; however, his Oxon Hill Manor crypt and vault were demolished by James T. Lewis of Lewis Enterprises before he sold the land to National Harbor's developers.
Like President Hanson's remains, the whereabouts of Lewis are unknown to this day. He has completely disappeared and escaped prosecution. Therefore, It is the position of the National Continental Congress Historical Society that the only way to right this wrong is for the current National Harbor developers, the Peterson Companies, to construct a National Continental Congress Center on the site--currently a parking lot--where President Hanson's crypt and vault were located. We also believe that a National Harbor location, so close to Mount Vernon, Alexandria and Washington D.C., would attract more year-round visitors than a location in Annapolis. This proposal has the backing of the John Hanson Memorial Association, who are preparing to celebrate John Hanson's 300th birthday in 2015 in Frederick, Maryland.
After the Treaty of Paris Period has been inserted into Maryland's K-12 educational curriculum, the second goal is to create a permanent home in Annapolis that would serve as a Treaty of Paris Period interpretive center, simply called the "Treaty of Paris Center," where the Treaty of Paris Period can be re-discovered by the public. On January 3, 2015, a temporary, part-time Treaty of Paris Center was opened at the Maryland Inn.
* Because the most important events between the Revolution and the Constitution took place in and/or involved Annapolis in many ways, we still believe that these "few years" between 1783 and 1787 should be emphasized and described in detail so that the need for a new Constitution makes sense but we also want the rest of the city's wonderful 400-year history, which is already impressively told at many excellent places, to be properly appreciated. We are confident that Maryland is capable of telling the history of Annapolis in two ways simultaneously; as a 400-year-old bloc of time and also as a critically important period that acted as a bridge between the Revolution and the Constitution. Cities already showcasing their history in this way, emphasizing both their entire existence and specific events, include Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Gettysburg, Dallas and countless other municipalities where tourism is promoted using any and all means at their disposal.
The Mission of the Treaty of Paris Center
1. To teach the history of the forgotten Treaty of Paris Period, including the first structure of the United States (governed by a unicameral Congress led by a president who also sat in the Congress, along with a first constitution, the Articles of Confederation), the major events between the Revolution and the Constitution and the role that both the city of Annapolis and the state of Maryland played in those events.
2. To insert this forgotten history back into the academic curriculum of the nation's public and private K-12 schools, first in Maryland and then in the rest of the country.
3. To explain how the 1783 Treaty of Paris not only ended the Revolutionary War but also set in motion a series of national events that directly led to a new Constitution.
Attend the Treaty of Paris Center's series of monthly events throughout the year 2015. These events will serve as a model of what could exist in Annapolis if the people in charge of the city's history decided to take the next step. When the year is over, we will offer a "General George Washington's Farewell Ball" event that will also serve as the Treaty of Paris Center's farewell event. This event will represent the achievement of our goal to set an example of what a Treaty of Paris Center could be like. Then it will be up to the city of Annapolis to decide if they want to offer the activities we will have presented on a permanent basis. Together, we can bring this incredible but neglected history back to life!
OUR GOAL FOR 2015