Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Remember When . . . There Was No College on College Avenue?

I love Annapolis. I love the old-world charm, I love the maritime beauty, I love the ancient facades (or as ancient as facades can get in America) of the buildings. I love that when I walk along City Dock during boating season, I can hear conversations in German and French and Italian as well as Spanish and English. I love seeing the Midshipman bustling along in their pristine whites, I love seeing the Johnnies amble along with a book in front of them--yes, the students from my college sometimes read and walk at the same time. I've seen it, LOL.

Annapolis is a city very proud of its colonial heritage, of its importance in the wars that came after, in how it has stood strong even as Baltimore outgrew it. And I love it for that.

One problem . . . at the time I'm writing in, it wasn't just a tourist spot for the yachting community. The Naval Academy wasn't there yet. There was no St. John's College. Which made me ask all knew questions. Like . . . what was College Creek called, then? Or, more importantly, College Avenue?

See, College Avenue slices right through the middle of town, a rather important thoroughfare if you're dealing at all with the State House--which I am. In fact, one of my primary characters lives on North Street (which connects to College Ave) and teaches at King William's School, which was (wanna take a guess?) on the other side of College Ave.

I looked everywhere I could think to. I searched through the old book I had on Annapolis. In three more provided by Google Books. I searched for maps from the era. But I couldn't find the answer to that question. I discovered what Main Street used to be called, I discovered that College Creek used to be Deep Creek (and that Spa Creek used to be Acton's). I learned any number of other useful facts about what was what back then--but not as concerns College Ave. Aaaaagggghhhh!

Then I found a promising link in the Maryland State Archives, which are blessedly online. A map--not quite old enough to help, but there were links to other, older maps. I clicked on the oldest one--still 90 years after my book, but the closest I could get online. And it looked good. It looked promising. That street crossing town definitely did not say College Ave. It said . . . crease?

Aaaaaagggghhhhh! Yes, this scanned map had a terrible crease RIGHT THROUGH THE NAME I NEEDED!!!!! All I could make out was "Tab" and "cle." But that was enough to ding the bell of memory (an adage not in use in 1783, by the way, ha ha). Tabernacle! It was Tabernacle Street!!!

So, in a way that my middle school math teachers would fully approve of, now that I had my answer, I worked backward to check my work. I searched for Tabernacle Street in Annapolis, and voila! Documents verifying this was indeed what I needed. (Though heaven forbid they come up in my original searches--noooooooo.)

See how exciting historical research can be? ;-)


  1. Sorry, but I was laughing a bit at this post! Thank you for sharing it!

  2. You were supposed to be. =) No need to apologize.

  3. After posting my online book signing info today, I connected to your blog, and bingo! Annapolis! I knew you were in Maryland, but not just where.

    I've told you I'm a retired minister. I retired after service as interim minister at First Presby Ch in Annapolis in 1988-9. Loved the old town.

    I'm guessing your next book is set in Annapolis. You've sold me. Any other Annapolis books?

  4. I'm actually in Western Maryland now, Bert, but we went to college at St. John's and stuck around Annapolis for a couple years afterward. Love that town!

    Yeah, my WIP is set in Annapolis 1783 (that brief span when it was the capital) and is penciled into a publisher's 2012 schedule, though nothing's official. I get to write about Washington resigning his commission and the ratification of the Treaty of Paris, though! Should be fun. =)

    I also have a contemporary set in Annapolis, but I have my doubts as to whether it will find a publishing home anytime soon.