Once upon a time, there was a Maryland governor named Bladen. He held office in the cultural hub of the New World, Annapolis. There, balls and soirees and parties of unsurpassed splendor ruled the day. Nowhere else in America could you find such wealth, such beauty, such style. For good reason, the town had been dubbed the "Athens of America." Bladen undoubtedly thought himself pretty darn special. He was governor. The State House overlooked the city with grace and elegance. The Who's Who of the colonies often dropped by. So naturally, he deserved a governor's mansion. One whose glory would reflect the State House across the street. There was only one problem . . . he ran out of money before the mansion was finished. Oops!
For years, the shell of building sat empty and, we can suppose, forlorn. I imagine the governor was pretty embarrassed, too, since the mocking facade came to be known as Bladen's Folly. Kinda funny, since Thomas Jefferson called it "the only publick building worth mentioning" in Annapolis in 1766.
In the 1780s, Bladen's Folly sat on 4 acres of land abutting King William's School, a grammar/prep school for boys that were usually bound for Oxford. After the Revolution, Maryland officials decided it was high time the state had a college, and the state offered Bladen's Folly and the land with it if the college would be placed in Annapolis, as opposed to on the Eastern Shore, as some wanted. In 1784 (when my new work-in-progress takes place), St. John's College was chartered, its home to be Bladen's Folly--after they completed it of course. In order to streamline, they merged with King William's School, and grammar-level instruction continued in the basement while higher learning took place on the higher floors. (The cupola and bell tower were added then.)
Now this is of utmost interest to me for several reasons. First, because my hero attended King William's School a decade earlier, so he'd be pretty interested in all this. Second, because I attended St. John's. =) The third oldest college in the nation (only because they can claim the charter of King William's School, actually--it was founded in 1696), St. John's still uses the building once called Bladen's Folly as its central building, though now it's called McDowell Hall. Which means I got to walk the moat that was deepened during the new construction in 1786. I got to look out over the Great Hall where centuries'of students met before me. I got to look out the windows of the third floor and see the dome of the State House where George Washington resigned his commission, where the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolution was ratified.
I just love placing my feet on the steps of history. Don't you?