The National CONTINENTAL CONGRESS Historical Society

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About Us

In 2011, the Annapolis Capital-Gazette newspaper reported that Fred Kent, an urban renewal expert, gave a talk at St. John's College on the need to "enhance" the Annapolis waterfront. Mr. Kent explained that the City Dock was "underused," consisting of only "A little Market House and a plaza with nothing to do on it." 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 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.
To explore this idea, the "Annapolis Continental Congress Society" was formed under the umbrella of the Annapolis Community Foundation to discuss this project. The first step was to educate the public about this forgotten era, since the history books discuss the Revolutionary War in great detail but not the political leadership of Congress from 1774-87 or why Congress was forced to meet in 8 different cities. In 2012 and 2013, the ACCS successfully coordinated two National Continental Congress Festivals, both televised on C-Span. These events were the results of partnerships between the ACCS, several national and local institutions, various historical organizations, and many prominent merchants and individuals.

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.
At the end of 2013, when members of the historical community in Annapolis expressed concern with the idea of a National Continental Congress Center that some believed might not only tell the stories of other cities but also highlight only a few years within the long, important history of Annapolis, the ACCS listened to those concerns and decided to split into two parts.*

The first part of the ACCS merged with the First Federal Congress Project at The George Washington University to become the Washington, D.C.-based  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 now 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 former President of Congress, John Hanson; however, his Oxon Hill Manor crypt and vault were demolished by James T. Lewis of Lewis Enterprises to prepare the property to be sold 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.
The second part of the ACCS merged with the Annapolis Forum to create the Annapolis-based Treaty of Paris Center, still under the umbrella of the Annapolis Community Foundation, operating on the first Saturday of each month in the Maryland Inn's Crown and Crab Room. The Center is a member of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitor's Bureau. The Center's mission is to focus solely on the Treaty of Paris Period (1783-87), the time between the end of the Revolutionary War and the start of the Constitutional Convention when the unicameral version of Congress tried to comply with the terms of the Treaty of Paris. The Center's first goal is to put the Treaty of Paris Period into Maryland's K-12 educational curriculum because it serves as a Bridge between the Revolution and the Constitution. There might not have been a second Constitution had the Treaty of Paris not mandated that Congress pay the nation's war debts, even in victory.

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.

* 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 Mann's Tavern Project
Sadly, one of the most important events in the Treaty of Paris Period, the 1786 Annapolis Convention, took place in a building, Mann's Tavern, that burned down in 1919. Because it appears that the Old Recreation Center will not remain a public-use building, we propose that Mann's Tavern (pictured above) be restored so that it can become a permanent home for the Treaty of Paris Center. A rebuilt Mann's Tavern would not only become a powerful tool for promoting the entire "four centuries" Annapolis has existed, it would also incorporate the suggestions that Mr. Kent made in 2011 by providing something for City Dock visitors to do---the opportunity to learn about the Treaty of Paris Period and, in the process, how the first, original version of the United States became the America we know today.

Join the efforts by the National Continental Congress Historical Society and the Treaty of Paris Center to achieve two remarkable goals; first, to build a National Continental Congress Center at National Harbor--on the site where President John Hanson's destroyed crypt once stood--that would honor all 14 "Forgotten" Presidents of Congress before George Washington; and second, to build a Treaty of Paris Center in Annapolis--on the site where Mann's Tavern once stood--that would educate the public about the "lost" Treaty of Paris Period (1783-87). Help us find major donors and important historical organizations who might be interested--and capable of turning these goals into realities. Together, we can bring this incredible but neglected history back to life!