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Fodor's Virginia and Maryland
Historic St. Mary's City
Historic St. Mary's City Review
When you visit the 800-plus acres here, with a liberal arts college serving at the cultural center, don't expect Colonial Williamsburg. St. Mary's is an ongoing archaeological dig and a work in progress. In 1934, in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of Maryland, the colony's imposing State House, originally built in 1676, was reconstructed. In the early 1970s a vast archaeological-reconstruction program began in earnest, a project that has revealed nearly 200 individual sites. In 2009 St. Mary's marked its 375th anniversary of the founding of Maryland. A living history museum of sorts, the historic town includes several notable reconstructions and reproductions of buildings. The State House of 1676, like its larger and grander counterpart in Williamsburg, has an upper and a lower chamber for the Council and General Assembly. This 1934 reproduction is based on court documents from the period; the original was dismantled in 1829, with many of the bricks used for Trinity Church nearby. The square-rigged ship Maryland Dove, docked behind the State House, represents the smaller of the two vessels that conveyed the original settlers from England. The Godiah Spray Tobacco Plantation depicts life on a 17th-century tobacco farm in the Maryland wilderness, with interpreters portraying the Spray family—the real family lived about 20 mi away—and its indentured servants, enlisting visitors in such household chores as cooking and gardening or in working the tobacco field. The buildings, including the main dwelling house and outbuildings, were built with period tools and techniques.
Other sites to see in town are the town center, the location of the first Catholic church in the English Colonies, a "victualing" and lodging house, and the Woodland Indian Hamlet. Historic interpreters in costume—some in character—add realism to the experience. Admission is about a third of the price for kids.
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