It’s the second most visited Department of Defense official residence in the country after the White House with between 6,000 to 8,000 guests each year. It’s almost 17,000 square feet, and hosts more than 100 social events each year, many times welcoming two events or more in one day. It’s the Superintendent’s Residence at USNA, and it’s many things—home to the U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent, a special place for the midshipmen and one of the most fascinating buildings on the Yard.
The Home for All Midshipmen
Nestled on a stunning lawn next to the USNA Chapel and near prominent USNA Captains Row, is the Superintendent’s residence among the U.S. Naval Academy’s oldest and most visible landmarks—and a living example of beautiful USNA housing.
For many years it has served as the primary residence of the Academy’s superintendent, and over its history this home has hosted countless Academy receptions and events for dignitaries and important guests, including the Brigade of Midshipmen. With 34 beautifully decorated rooms, each space in the Superintendent's residence is filled with an extensive collection of art, antiques and memorabilia, all an homage to the U.S. Navy and Naval Academy’s long and brilliant histories.
The home was built in 1906 as part of Ernest Flagg’s “new academy,” a striking example of Beaux-Arts architecture right in the heart of the Yard.
Related: A Look Back at USNA Superintendents, Part I
In the Beginning
Although it dates back to around the time when the USNA Chapel was completed, the Superintendent's Residence at USNA is actually the third iteration of such a residence on the Yard. Originally, planners intended to keep and renovate the old State of Maryland’s Governor’s Mansion, which was located where Dahlgren Hall now stands. When the governor moved to a newer home on State Circle in 1866, the mansion was razed. The current home was built for $77,500; it included 34 rooms and 15,000 square feet—and 10 chimneys marching along its slated roof.
Although the Superintendent's Residence was planned as the superintendent's home, the Board of Visitors nixed that idea at first. During this time, officers who attained the rank of captain ran the school. The Board decided the house was simply too nice for the superintendent to use as a residence. Thus the superintendent was relegated to a more modest home at Worden Field, also designed by Flagg. For the first three years after its completion, The Naval Academy used the house as an infirmary for midshipmen. Then in 1911, there was a change of heart, and it welcomed its first superintendent.
A Peek Inside
Throughout the home thoughtful attention has been given to the details in order to make it a welcoming place of gracious hospitality for USNA. From hosting sit-down dinners with 65 people, to welcoming the graduating seniors and their families to tour the home and gardens during Commissioning Week, it is an integral part of life on the Yard. Even couples marrying at the USNA Chapel are welcome to take their wedding pictures in the beautiful garden. The home is also vibrantly decorated for the holidays, and hosts many events then, too.
Related: USNA Christmas Tree Lighting: Gather ‘Round the Bandstand.
Famous Spaces to See
While we encourage you to learn about the home while on tour, there are a few noteworthy ones you won’t be able to see from the outside. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stayed here often since he favored the Annapolis port when sailing to European engagements. Since he relied on crutches or a wheelchair, he asked to have a bathroom added to the first floor. This small bathroom is named “Roosevelt’s Bathroom,” and still retains the sink that the famous president used.
Another great piece of history belonged to privateer commander Samuel Chester Reid, who served in the War of 1812. There is a small wooden desk where he penned a Congressional Resolution in 1818 which mandated the U.S. flag maintain thirteen stripes and add a star for each state. Watching over this desk is his own portrait, which was created by John Wesley Jarvis. The famous USS Constitution also lives on here through a table featuring beautifully carved legs that has been used as a chart drafting table since 1861.
There are many more finds throughout the house. A long dining room at the back of the house is called the Larson Room to honor two-term superintendent Admiral Chuck Larson, Class of 1958. It boasts gorgeous early 1800s concave Girandole mercury glass mirrors framed in gold. These are complemented by the crystal drop candelabra on the walls; both came from Captain James Lawrence, the man whose brave words during the War of 1812 live on as the rallying cry for USNA, “Don’t give up the ship.”
Related: Don’t Give Up the Ship!
There are countless treasures to be discovered throughout the Yard. Plan a trip to see what you discover. From the history laden halls of the Superintendent's Residence to the USNA Museum’s fascinating collections, to the monuments scattered throughout the Yard, the Naval Academy is a history lover's dream.
When you visit the Academy, you’re also giving to the midshipmen, since the proceeds from every tour, meal and shopping excursion go to them. Come see the Superintendent's Residence today, and enjoy walking through history in the making. We look forward to welcoming you home.