I had the privilege of attending St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland. St. John's charter spun off of King William's School's, giving us the right to say we've existed since 1696, though in fact the preparatory school didn't become the college until 1790. But walking those old brick pathways for four years, making frequent trips across the street into Historical Annapolis, I acquired a severe case of enamoring with the city and its history.
After graduating from St. John's in 2004, my husband and I moved to the Annapolis suburb of Arnold and stuck around for another nearly-two-years. So after just about 6 in this beautiful old town, I thought I knew it pretty well. I was excited to pitch a story set there. And when the editor asked for a full, I realized quickly that there were a lot of things I'd never taken the time to notice about this place I called home for so long, and which the internet just couldn't tell me.
Last December, my friend Kimberly and I happily parked in the garage across from our alma mater and made our way to West Street and a building we'd always avoided like the plague--the Visitor's Center. There we took photos of the 3-D Historical map (color-coded by the era in which the buildings were constructed), gathered brochures, and debated taking an official tour. Deciding against that, we set out on foot. Our first aim: Church Circle.
Stopping in the middle of the sidewalk like the tourists we used to grumble about, we brandished our cameras and took photos from every conceivable angle. Of buildings. Of plaques. Of street signs. We noted the old spellings of things that were given on signs, the years for each street and community. I jotted down descriptions of courtyards and even made a sketch of the apparently-haphazard stonework in the foundation of some of the buildings (pebbles in the mortar . . . who'd have thought of it?)
But the best moment for both me and Kimberly was when we walked up to the old entrance of the State House. My camera battery was, by now, dead--special thanks to the cold air that sucked it dry. But that didn't stop us. We stood on the black and white marble squares of the portico, looked through the stately white columns, and plotted.
You see, my heroine had to flee from this very spot, run from the hero as if the hounds of Hades were on her heels. And she had to somehow end up at City Dock. How, I wondered, would she have done it?
I'd looked at maps, but maps never reminded me of how the hill sloped down, how the hill pulled one's feet toward Cornhill Street. However, when we fled down the steps and put ourselves in Lark's shoes, it was easy to determine what path she would have taken, where it would have put her out, and how she would have ended up dangerously close to the docks.
Once down there, Kimberly and I took a happy turn through a few shops and museums, studied another awesome 3-D rendering of the town circa 1790 (perfect!), and then treated ourselves to lunch.
Six years I lived in or around Annapolis. But only in those three hours did I really see the place as Lark and Emerson would have. I've never been so glad to live relatively close to a setting!