Annapolis draws on history to raise city economy

ANNAPOLIS — A group of Annapolis residents and businessmen is hoping the past will bring financial presents to the city.

Project Prosperity hopes to entice tourists with a taste for history with a three-day, two-night package next month. The $775 per couple fee includes a stay at the O’Callaghan Annapolis Hotel, a cruise on an 83-foot yacht, and tours centered around George Washington and colonial times.

“There’s a market that likes that sort of thing,” said George Palmer, director of Annapolis Urban Adventures, and one of the organizers. “They like to be spoiled a little bit.”

When the people who sign up for the package aren’t touring, the hope is that they’ll spend money in the city’s restaurants and shops.

Project Prosperity grew out of the concern of some Park Place residents over the number of vacant storefronts in the city. More than 10 people have teamed together for the past several months to organize the tourist package for June 10-12.

“The idea was to create an event to attract people to something Annapolis has not previously offered,” said Lesley Pattison, general manager of the O’Callaghan.

Residents who want to go on the cruise and the tours, but not stay in the hotel, will need to purchase a separate package for $375 per couple, or $200 for one person.

The organizers decided to focus the tourist package on Washington because of the significance of a trip he made here in 1783. The visit also isn’t typically covered in great detail, they said. Washington came to Annapolis to resign his commission as commander in chief of the Continental Army.

Tidbits about the first president will be sprinkled into every part of the event, with the final day focused on him. Re-enactor David Smith of Eastport will be at the State House to discuss the end of the Revolutionary War and what Washington did while in Annapolis. He’ll then recite the speech Washington gave to legislators.

Smith said he’s too short to play Washington, which is why he’ll be dressed as Washington’s aide, Lt. Col. Tench Tilghman.

After the tour group leaves the State House, it’s off to a party at the William Paca House. The Historic Annapolis Foundation, which runs the Paca House, has a painting in its museum of a woman who danced with Washington at a ball during his 1783 visit.

Martha Rolle Mackubin’s portrait is by James Peale, the younger brother of Charles Willson Peale, who is famous for painting Washington.

The full tourist package is open to 50 couples and organizers hope it’s the first of many such events. “This is a pilot from which we’ll learn a lot,” Palmer said.

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