(Kenneth White (GlobeNewsWire))

The late Paul Pearson came to Annapolis in 1968, to a city he described as beautiful but down on its heels.

Energetic, creative, passionate to create something new, this natural entrepreneur found the capital city challenged his imagination. Today the face of Annapolis is the face of Paul Pearson.

In Eastport, Tecumseh, Shearwater, and The Point are his creations. But it was downtown where his vision and passion for preservation and jazz revitalized a City.

Old homes, from the city’s colonial past, were bought, restored and converted to inns we know as the Calvert House, the Statehouse Inn, the Robert Johnson House, Reynolds Tavern and The Maryland Inn.

55 years after arriving in Annapolis, the City, thanks to Paul’s vision, has an international reputation and is visited by millions to walk the streets our nation’s founders walked and to stay in a home of importance during the city’s first 1760s Golden Age. Paul’s Unigue creative qualities opened them and gifted them to Annapolis.

By the 1980s, Thanks to Paul and city leadership, Pip Moyer, and Anne St. Clair Wright, the city was on a roll and about to enter its second Golden Age. At the center of this new vitality was the Maryland Inn purchased by Pearson and Donohoe for $15,000 down and a $400,000 mortgage.

The inn, built as a home by Thomas Hyde in 1772, became one of the first centers of entertainment in the Maryland Colony, visited by all the Colonies leaders. By 1968, however, it housed a beauty salon, an employee locker room, and out-of-date dwelling space. But Paul, passionate about preservation, Saw it as the graceful, center of fine dining and entertainment.

Pearson loved music and Jazz. So he set about stripping away layers of paint and tiles from the basement locker room to reveal the brick walls and original beams that would become a moody, Rathskeller bohemian atmosphere of a Jazz music room he named The King of France Tavern.

Little did he know that in this town, once known as a jazz and rythymns and blues center as early as 1926, that his jazz room would help revive the City bringing a new economic up lift to Main Street.

As luck would have it, Pearson heard Guiitarist Charlie Byrd play at the Annapolis Fine Art festival on City dock. Ironically, Pearson did not know about the already famous Byrd and attended his concert as a favor to his secretary who did know a thing or two about Byrd. Pearson invited Byrd to play at the new King of France Tavern. In May 1972, (200 years after Hyde built the inn), Byrd played the King of France. Charlie Byrd played for 3 weeks to sold out audiences, the beginning of a 25 year relationship for the Charlie Byrd trio — Joe Byrd on bass and Stef Scaggaari on the piano — at the King of France Tavern. The trio would travel to 100 countries as State Department goodwill ambassadors.

The excitement the music generated goosed the city’s economic vitality.

Fully restored, The Maryland Inn and its jazz room were visited by the nation’s jazz greats Dave Brubeck, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Monty Alexander, Teddy Wilson, and Ethel Ennis. For Count Basie, Paul planned a whole weekend in cooperation with Maryland Hall and a gala dance party at the Calvert House.

Pearson lived by the words of Joanne Wolfgang vin Goethe: “whatever you dream, you can do. Begin it, because boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

When Charlie Byrd died in 1999 (a few years before Paul Pearson in 2001,) the music died. The magic and economic vitality generated by the Entertainment center and fine restaurant were closed and converted to a coffee shop. Since 2000, The Historic Inn has shuffled along. Up and down Main Street the music and the economic vitality it generated citywide went quiet.

Kenneth White, the current manager of the Maryland Inn, hopes to bring back the Maryland Inn to its former glory. In 2024, the Treaty of Paris, the Restaurant with its famous popovers will open again. The Drummer’s Lot Pub where town leaders used to gather is now opened again.
The King of France Tavern has already showcased local musicians. White’s hope is to once again bring in local and national jazz artists to the King of France Tavern.

Perhaps “meet me at The Inn” will be familiar once again and the Inn will come alive with music that spurs good times up and down Main Street. And a third Golden Age in Annapolis.

Ellen Moyer is a former mayor of Annapolis. She welcomes comments and idea sharing and can be contacted at [email protected].

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