Maryland’s historic State House will open Friday to the public for the first time in more than a year, after closing to visitors last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The State House, built between 1772 and 1779, is the oldest state capital building in continuous legislative use in the nation.
“We’ve fully authorized the State House to be open for visitors and tour groups once again beginning Friday,” Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday at the start of a bill-signing ceremony. “I think it’s just one more step in the right direction and a return to normalcy after a hard-fought battle against COVID-19.”
Health protocols will be in place for visitors, including temperature checks and screening questions. Those who are not vaccinated are encouraged to wear masks.
The State House is typically open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily, except for Christmas and New Year’s Day.
As the coronavirus swept into Maryland in March 2020, leaders swiftly shut down the State House complex to the public, including nearby office buildings and hearing rooms. That meant that for the end of the General Assembly’s 2020 session and the entire 2021 session, the public, activists and lobbyists were not allowed to observe proceedings in person.
With vaccinations increasing and rates of new cases and hospitalizations dropping, state leaders decided it was time to let the public back in. The State House Trust, which manages the building, voted by email on the reopening. The trust is comprised of the General Assembly’s presiding officers, the governor or his designee, and a representative of the Maryland Historical Trust.
The State House has new attractions for returning visitors. During the pandemic, crews completed work on an overhaul of Lawyers Mall, a plaza and public gathering space outside. And just before everything shut down last March, statues of Maryland abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass were installed in the Old House of Delegates Chamber.