Tuesday, November 30, 2010

U.S. Naval Academy - Annapolis, MD

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry… Last month we decided to get away for a few days and took a trip down to Maryland.  The plan was to spend Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Ocean City, then make a stop in St. Michaels on Thursday afternoon on the way up to Annapolis where we would spend Thursday night.  Everything went according to plan except it was pouring down rain all day Thursday.  So our stop in St. Michaels turned out to be very short, since walking around town in the rain was not a good option.  It also curtailed some of our planned sightseeing around Annapolis on Thursday afternoon.

We decided to spend Friday touring the U.S. Naval Academy, and it turned out to be a beautiful day.  We didn’t realize it, but this happened to be the weekend of a major powerboat show in Annapolis.  On the downside, the town was packed with people and cars and the harbor was literally packed with powerboats of all kinds and sizes.  On the upside, because of the show our hotel was running a regular shuttle service to the harbor, which was only two blocks from the USNA entrance - so we didn’t have to worry about driving down and finding parking.

The Naval Academy grounds are open to the public – you just have to show your driver’s license to security at the visitor’s entrance.  The Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center is the place to start.  It houses a very extensive USNA gift shop as well as many exhibits depicting life at the Academy over the years and honoring many of the famous midshipmen who attended.   The centerpiece of the museum is the “Graduates in Space” exhibit honoring the 51 astronauts who graduated from the USNA, the most from any institution.  To me the most impressive exhibit in the entire center is the actual Mercury Freedom 7 space capsule flown into space by Alan Shepard in 1961 - a real part of history when I was growing up.

Visitors are free to walk around the grounds and enter the buildings on their own, but we decided to take one of the escorted walking tours.  The $9.50 per person fee is worth it, just for the narration and background information provided by the guide.  The walking tour lasts about 1.25 hours.  The campus is totally isolated from the town and is very beautiful.  The sense of history is everywhere.  The architecture of the halls, classroom buildings, and officers’ quarters is very impressive.

Homes for Ranking Officers & Professors

Our tour started in the Lejeune Physical Education Center, which houses an Olympic-class swimming pool, a mat room for wrestling and hand-to-hand martial arts, and the Athletic Hall of Fame.  There are many trophies in the hall of fame but those that stand out are the two Heisman trophies won by Joe Bellino in 1960 and Roger Staubach in 1963, plus the game balls from every Navy win in the Army-Navy football game dating back to 1890.

Tecumseh Statue
If you have a chance to visit the USNA, make a point to be there at noon.  Every day at noon the entire Brigade of Midshipmen forms for uniform inspection and a march into the mess hall for lunch, complete with marching band.  There was quite a crowd gathered by the time we got there from our tour, so it was difficult taking pictures.  The formation takes place in Tecumseh Court at the entrance to Bancroft Hall.  Bancroft Hall is actually a complex of halls that comprises the largest college dormitory in the world and houses all of the 4,500+ midshipmen.  At the entrance to Tecumseh Court is the statue of Tecumseh, which is decorated and painted by the midshipmen for special occasions.  There are also two bells in the court which are rung for each win of Navy over Army in all sports.

                             Japanese Bell
U.S.S. Enterprise Bell

Another highlight of the tour was the Naval Academy Chapel.  The architecture of the chapel is stunning – from the distinctive green copper dome on the outside to the beautiful stained glass windows and high domed ceiling on the inside.  The chapel is used for both Protestant and Catholic weekly services and, as you can imagine, is very popular for weddings.  The lower level of the chapel also houses the remains of John Paul Jones in a beautiful marble sarcophagus.  The interesting story of John Paul Jones’ life and death is told around the perimeter of the display.

John Paul Jones Sarcophagus

As I said earlier, we didn’t get to see much of the town of Annapolis due to the rain and the crowds, so I’d really like to go back for a visit in quieter times so we can walk around and photograph the town.

If you have a chance, please check out my ImageKind Galleries and Flickr Collections.  I also have two new shops - Zazzle Gifts and Zazzle Prints & Posters.

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