Home of two successive African-American families from 1847 to 1900, the Maynard-Burgess House, across from City Hall on Duke of Gloucester Street, is a tribute to the aspirations of the free black population of Annapolis in the 1800s. John Maynard purchased the property on Duke of Gloucester from James Iglehart in 1847, "with buildings." Architectural evidence indicates that what Maynard bought may have been, at least in part, an outbuilding dating to the late 18th century that had been moved to the site. During the next ten years Maynard improved the property, expanding the three-bay, story and a half structure to a full two-story dwelling with two front entrances, dormers and a massive central brick chimney. By 1860, the property had nearly tripled in value.
John Maynard was born a free black in Maryland about 1811 and died in Annapolis in 1875. Maynard's life was a deeply responsible and public one. Between 1834 and 1845, he purchased and freed his wife, her daughter and his mother-in-law. His improvements to the house suggest that he may have provided a home for other family members. David Maynard, an unidentified relative, and also a free black, lived with his family in the house adjacent to John Maynard's house.
Listed as a waiter in the 1860 census, Maynard may have worked at the City Hotel on Main and Conduit Streets, less than a block from his residence. Further evidence of John Maynard's financial status and community responsibility can be found at Old Mt. Moriah A.M.E. Church on Franklin Street. A leader in the church, he donated funds for a stained glass window when the church was built in 1874. John Maynard died in 1876. The inventory of his personal estate, appraised by his neighbor William H. Butler, provides a room-by-room description of his home, complete with a formal "Front Room."
Willis Burgess Buys the House
Maynard descendants held on to the property and operated it as a boarding house until 1914 when Willis Burgess, a resident, purchased it. His family owned it until 1990. Later archaeological investigations have shown that the families joined the transition to Victorian consumerism, chasing more processed foods and beverages as well as typical mass-produced tableware. In the early 1990s, Port of Annapolis, a private developer of historic properties, attempted to renovate the structure for resale. Recognizing its historic significance, they transferred ownership to the City of Annapolis. With grants from the City and the Maryland Historical Trust, Historic Annapolis Foundation, the designated restoration agent, is working to restore the property as a house museum depicting 19th century African-American life in Annapolis.