The 19th Century Old House of Delegates Chamber

Where Important Events in Maryland History Happened

Old House of Delegates Chamber

The re-created Old House of Delegates chamber, completed in 2012

Old House of Delegates Chamber

The Old House of Delegates Chamber in 1878

Recreation - 1878 Version as a Model

As part of the long-term plan to improve the State House visitor experience, the 19th century Old House of Delegates Chamber has been restored, using photographic and documentary evidence from the 1878 redecoration and restoration project directed by Baltimore architect George Frederick. This new space highlights and interprets the many important events that took place in the State House and Maryland history in the 19th century. These include the abolishment of slavery in Maryland in 1864 and the writing of the state constitution of 1867 that is still in effect today.

Early History

The first known floor plan of the Maryland State House, published in the Columbian Magazine in February 1789, shows a classically Georgian plan, with the Old Senate Chamber to the right of the main door and the House of Delegates Chamber to the left. The two chambers were of the same size and were mirror images of each other, with raised podiums - "thrones" for the Speaker and the President - and a gallery at the back of the room. The first meeting of the General Assembly in the new State House took place in the Old House of Delegates Chamber at the start of the March 1779 Session.

Very few substantive changes were made to the House of Delegates Chamber until around 1837, when the desks were painted and six new ones were added to accommodate two more delegates from Baltimore City and four delegates from the newly created Carroll County.

The most dramatic change to the House of Delegates Chamber occurred in 1858 when it was expanded to almost twice its original size to accommodate its growing roster of members which reflected the state's increasing population. It was reported that the room was now so commodious for both members and spectators that at least two Constitutional Conventions were held in it, in 1864 and 1867. The Constitution of 1864 was significant historically because it contained a Declaration of Rights that, in its first article, abolished slavery in Maryland. The Constitution of 1867 is still the Constitution of Maryland, with amendments that have passed since its adoption.

High Victorian Style

In 1878, more renovations guided by the Baltimore architect George Frederick were made to the Chamber and new desks were purchased. Contemporary photographs show a crowded room with an elaborate podium decorated in the high-Victorian style. By the beginning of the 20th century, it was clear that the State House need a major modernization to meet the needs of growing legislative and executive branches of government. The two 19th century annexes were removed and the present Annex was built under the direction of architects Baldwin & Pennington. In 1904, the House of Delegates held its first session in its new chamber.

20th Century

Since 1904, the space once occupied by the House of Delegates has been used for many different purposes, including as a state museum and as office space for the Department of Legislative Reference. In 1968, a wall was constructed dividing the space into two rooms--the Calvert Room and the Maryland Silver Room.

These two rooms have been combined and redecorated in the late 19th century, high Victorian style of the Old House of Delegates Chamber. Design was by Beyer Blinder Belle, working with the Maryland State Archives and the Department of General Services.

New Statues Dedication in 2020

On the evening of Monday, February 10, 2020, at a Joint Session of the Maryland General Assembly, two new statues were dedicated in the Maryland State House. Statues of the most important Marylanders in American history: Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, have been in planning and production for the past three years. The installation of these bronze “forensic” statues will greatly enhance the visitor experience in the Maryland State House (a National Historic Landmark) by representing the lives of these two individuals, born enslaved in Maryland, who liberated themselves and became national leaders in the effort to abolish slavery in America.  

DEDICATION CEREMONY:

Remarks by Elaine Rice Bachmann, Secretary, State House Trust

Remarks  by Ivan Schwartz, StudioEIS
Remarks by Adrienne Jones, Speaker of the House, Maryland House of Delegates

Remarks by William C. Ferguson IV, President, Maryland Sentate

Paintings and Statues in the Old House of Delegates Chamber