The Maynard-Burgess House: Rehabilitation and Adaptive Use 2020-2021
With a generous grant from the Maryland Historical Trust’s African American Heritage Preservation Grant Program, the City is renovating the Maynard-Burgess House for adaptive office and exhibit use. The goal of the project is to create a useful code-compliant City office space on the first floor while preserving the upper levels intact. The house presents a unique opportunity to display examples of the material culture of two African-American families in Annapolis as well as preserve unrestored living spaces on the second floor and attic levels. The building framing and fabric as artifacts tell the story of the ability–and sometimes necessity–of innovatively recycling architectural and decorative materials for new purposes. Leaving some areas of the building unrestored provides the opportunity to study this amazing architectural window into 143 continuous years of African-American life in Annapolis.
Home of two successive African-American families from 1847 to 1990, the Maynard-Burgess House is a tribute to the aspirations of the free black population of Annapolis in the 1800s.
John Maynard was born a free black in Maryland about 1810. Maynard’s life was a deeply responsible and public one. Between 1834 and 1845, Maynard purchased and freed his wife Maria, her daughter Phebe Ann, and his mother-in-law Phoebe Spencer. As the family grew and changed through marriage, births, and deaths, so did the makeup of the household at 163 Duke of Gloucester Street. By 1880 the household included a widowed daughter-in-law, a granddaughter, and three boarders. David Maynard, an unidentified relative, and also a free black, lived with his family in the house connected to the Market Street side of John Maynard’s home.
Maynard purchased the property on Duke of Gloucester from James Iglehart in 1847 "with buildings” for $400. Architectural evidence indicates that what Maynard bought may have been, at least in part, an 18th-century structure moved to the site. During the next ten years he improved the property, expanding the house to a full two-and-half-story dwelling with two front entrances, dormers, and a massive central brick chimney. By 1860 the property had nearly tripled in value.
Listed as a waiter in the 1860 census, Maynard may have worked at the City Hotel on Main and Conduit Streets, less than a block from his residence. He served as one of the founding trustees for the Stanton School, established for the education of black children. Further evidence of John Maynard’s financial status and community responsibility can be found at Old Mt. Moriah A.M.E. Church on Franklin Street where as a church leader he donated funds for a stained glass window when the church was built in 1874.
John Maynard died in Annapolis in July 1875. The 1876 inventory of Maynard’s personal estate provides a room-by-room description of the family’s home, complete with a formal "Front Room” and more private “Side Room” for taking their meals. The probate record illustrates material comfort and a transition to Victoran consumerism using decorative marble-top tables and choosing more processed foods and beverages as well as typical mass-produced tableware.
Maynard descendants held on to the property and operated it as a boarding house until 1914 when hard times led to a mortgage default. In 1921Willis Burgess, a former boarder, purchased the house with his wife Mary at public sale. The Burgess family owned the property until 1990. In the early 1990s the Port of Annapolis Inc., a for-profit preservation organization, stabilized the house for the purpose of resale. Recognizing its historic significance, the corporation transferred ownership of the house to the City of Annapolis in 1993 for restoration through a joint City/Historic Annapolis agreement.
The Maynard family achieved middle-class financial prosperity during the 19th century, but like other African-Americans in Annapolis (one-third of the population) they found ways to flourish culturally in an atmosphere designed to suppress diversity. Faunal investigations at the site between 1990 and 1992 (a project of the joint Historic Annapolis/University of Maryland’s Archaeology in Annapolis partnership) demonstrate the ability of these families to maintain autonomy and identity in the face of oppression through control of their food environment. Choosing pork over beef, raising chickens and turkeys, fishing locally, and participating in an exchange-based network with friends and extended family helped to shield both families from everyday racism. (See Mark Warner’s Eating in the Side Room, University Press of Florida, 2015). In addition, the architectural features visible in the unrestored portions of the house provide a useful illustration of families reusing and recycling within their own domain not just to save money, but also as a means of protection from the challenges faced when confronting a white consumer society.
Roberta Laynor, Chief, Historic Preservation Division