Aug 14, 2012

Visiting the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland

John and I have always used the word Annapolis when talking about the U.S. Naval Academy. While the Naval Academy is in Annapolis, Maryland the locals never refer to it as Annapolis reserving that for the name of the city. I will try to remember this fine point.

The tour of the Naval Academy grounds is $9.50 for adults, less for seniors and children. The number of visitors in each tour is limited and those 16 or older must present a valid picture ID plus reservations are suggested. The tour starts in the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center where there are several interesting displays.

Our guide, Ruth Small, began the tour with “Welcome to Duty, Honor, and Loyalty.” She continued by saying that the goal of the Academy is to train the students “mentally, morally, and physically.” While the students get a free education they must give back by serving five years in the Navy or Marines. And, even though they are paid about $900 a month they must pay for their clothing and incidentals, which leaves them with very little money at the end of the month. When the Academy started it was male-only but today half of the 4,400 students are female. The school has an 80% graduation rate.

The grounds are beautiful with many Beaux-Art buildings designed by Ernest Flag along with memorials to graduates and non-graduates and even one of Tecumseh who is adorned with war paint for Parents' Weekend, Homecoming, and before the Army-Navy games. Tecumseh is also the "God of 2.0," the passing grade point average at the academy and where students toss pennies before a big test.
The tour included the Bancroft Hall, referred to as “Mother B.” It is the largest dormitory in the U.S. with 4.8 miles of halls and a beautiful marble rotunda. The rotunda is open to the public along with a full-size model of a midshipman’s room. As one might expect, considering most of the students will end up on a ship or submarine, there is an efficient use of space with everything they need in “shipshape” but roomy it is not. However, there is plenty of space on the grounds which now covers about 338 acres.

The chapel has beautiful stained glass windows some of which are by Tiffany. Beneath the chapel is the crypt where John Paul Jones, a Revolutionary War hero, is interred. The crypt contains a bust of Jones and names of his ships but it was the massive and impressive sarcophagus made of nearly 20 tons of Grand Pyrenees marble that captured our attention.

The hour-long tour ended at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Preble Hall which was completely remodeled a few years ago and how houses excellent displays and videos including the History of the U.S. Navy and the Academy. One of the things I love about museums is that there is always something that catches me off guard. I expected the displays of flags, medals, and other items related to the navy but on the far end of the second floor is an amazing display of model ships – and not just your run-of-the mill models. The Naval Academy has one of the world’s largest collections of model ships made of bone. The amazingly detailed ships were created in England during the Anglo-French (1756 to 1815) by French prisoners-of-war from the bones of their beef rations.