Historic Sites for Meetings & Events

As featured in November/ December’s MidAtlantic Events Magazine

By: Kelly Clark, Account Manager at Roberts Event Group

Meetings take place for the central purpose of advancing an organization’s goals, but planners are realizing more and more that other objectives come into play.

In the post-recession age, where budgets are scrutinized and there are concerns about events being wasteful, organizers and attendees are seeking programs to include cultural, environmental, and charitable impacts. This grows from an emphasis being placed on corporate social responsibility.

When choosing a historic site for your meeting or event, you are allowing attendees to enjoy a cultural experience while enriching their knowledge of the city or region. In the ever-changing landscape of restaurants, hotels, concert halls and museums, many historic venues wind up overlooked and “off the radar.”

Newer is not always better, and historic venues add their own special charm to events. So you can make your meeting even more memorable by holding it at a unique historic site.

Of course, there are pros and cons to hosting your meeting at a historic site. One of the benefits includes the timelessness of the venue. Historic venues are historic for a reason; they’ve endured the trends and fads. You can count on these buildings to withstand the test of time.

Another benefit is the multiple room options. Historic venues have so much character, and with multiple rooms and outdoor areas, you will not have to wander all over the city to get a variety of meeting room options. Additionally, the stunning architecture means you will not need to go overboard with added décor elements.

Some cons to keep in mind while planning a meeting in a historic venue include climate control, accessibility, and technology issues. Historic venues can be difficult to heat in the winter, and similarly, to cool in the summer. Make sure to ask if the building you are working out of has an updated heating and cooling system.

Another consideration is mobility-impaired guests since many older venues do not have the same handicap accommodations as are required of newer construction. Lastly, electrical outlets and cable wiring were not as important hundreds of years ago as they are today. Fewer outlets and smaller circuit loads can be potentially challenging if you have extensive audio-visual needs.

Historic Destination: Gettysburg, PA

In the summer of 1863, 75,000 soldiers of the Confederate Army, led by General Robert E. Lee, prepared to invade the North via war torn Northern Virginia up into the small, rural south central Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg. It was here they were met by 95,000 soldiers of the Union Army on July 1, with the battle raging on for three days. It proved to be a major turning point in leading to the end of the Civil War and in securing victory for the Union.

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famed Gettysburg Address in an effort to help foster the healing of a divided nation in Gettysburg, as well.

Today, the Gettysburg Foundation exists with its mission, in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), that is designed to enhance the preservation and understanding of the heritage and lasting significance of the town of Gettysburg along with its national parks.

The foundation focuses its work on the battle of Gettysburg and its context in the American Civil War, as well as President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

The Gettysburg Foundation’s broad preservation mission also includes work in land preservation; battlefield rehabilitation to enhance interpretation of the story of the battle of Gettysburg; monument, artifact and cannon preservation; and education.

This organization offers historic and modern facilities, along with many amenities for private events, parties, receptions, conferences, meetings and celebrations of all kinds. The foundation has a dedicated events staff ready to help make any event a moment in history for guests.

The venues it offers include: The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitors Center, and The Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station.

The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitors Center blends history and elegance with convenience. A 139,000-square foot facility, it combines the character of historic Pennsylvania along with state-of-the-art features and amenities.

Awarded Gold LEED certification as a green building, the museum and visitor center is situated adjacent to the famous Gettysburg battlefield and serves as the official visitor center for the Gettysburg National Military Park.

The Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station is best known as the railroad station where Abraham Lincoln arrived more than 150 years ago to deliver his Gettysburg Address. It is the perfect venue from which to embark on a cultural journey.

According to Katherine Jeschke, marketing manager for Gettysburg Foundation, “Corporate conferences and events, board or staff retreats – all need the right setting for a successful outcome. For the participants, historic venues often mean the difference between an experience that is ‘historic’ or merely satisfactory.”

“In my work,” she continues, “I’ve seen conference attendees become truly inspired – and energized – in the unique settings that only historic venues like Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center can provide. Modern facilities are clothed in respect for the past here and meeting planners benefit from the staff’s attention to detail while their guests enjoy white glove service.”

Sweeping views, quiet spaces, priceless artifacts and state-of-the-art technology combine to present planners and groups with an outstanding setting for meetings and events.

“Here at Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center,” continues Jeschke, “participants have exclusive access the Museum of the American Civil War and the historic, three-ton Cyclorama (a 19th century painting that surrounds guests with light and sound effects of battle). Once you visit these places, your mind will race with ideas for adding to the event and you’ll find the venue staff will race along with you. Your only problem will be limiting your own creativity in order to get the event details completed.”

Historic Destination: Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, MD

As a region, Anne Arundel County dates all the way back to 1649 as an English Puritan settlement along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

The history of the area only deepened further when Annapolis served as the nation’s first peacetime capital. Maryland’s four signers of the Declaration of Independence had homes here, which are a few minutes’ walk from each other and can still be visited and enjoyed today. A walk down its brick-lined streets puts visitors in touch with four centuries of history and architecture.

There are more 18th-century brick homes in Annapolis than any other city in the nation. Buildings once frequented by names like Jefferson and Washington, along with the exact spot the Treaty of Paris was ratified.

Notes Frank DiVenti, CMO, Visit Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, MD, “Our country’s forefathers from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia gathered in Annapolis in 1786 to begin the process of designing the United States Constitution. Our accessible location, along with the city’s charm rings true as much now as it did then.”

The Maryland State House, the oldest state house in continuous use, dates back to 1772 and is the site where George Washington resigned his military commission to the Continental Congress.

What’s more, the Annapolis countryside tells the story of generations of farmers and watermen whose lives have been shaped by the Chesapeake Bay and the rich farmland that surrounds it. Historic London Town offers a glimpse into one of the area’s earliest settlements, where an active archaeological site and museum showcase centuries of native artifacts.

After the Civil War, steamboats began bringing visitors to Annapolis to lounge on the beaches and waterfront location of City Dock, encouraging the growth of resorts, beachfront shops and yacht clubs, and establishing Annapolis as an elite summer destination.

At the turn of the 19th century, the economic emphasis shifted from Anne Arundel County’s successful plantations to the bodies of water surrounding and flowing through Annapolis. Water trades such as oyster packing, boat building and sail-making became the city’s chief industries.

Historic Annapolis is a special place, but it’s also the name of a grassroots non-profit organization founded in 1952 to ensure the preservation of Annapolis’s architectural legacy and to educate the public about this amazing city’s heritage. The mission of the Historic Annapolis Foundation is to champion historic preservation in Maryland’s capital city as a means to interpret the past, appreciate the present, and shape the future.

The group pursues this mission in a variety of ways: through guided tours, museum exhibits, public programs, and special events; by maintaining a number of historic properties and landscapes for the use and enjoyment of people today; by conducting original research that adds to the collective knowledge of the city’s history; by recognizing and promoting good stewardship of old buildings through its historic marker and easement programs; and by regularly advising the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and weighing in on important community issues.

Historic Annapolis owns or manages for the State of Maryland a number of historic properties that are open to the public on a regular schedule: Historic Annapolis Museum; Historic Annapolis Museum Store; The Hogshead; Waterfront Warehouse; and William Paca House and Garden. In addition, Historic Annapolis recently announced its new designation as a Smithsonian Affiliate.

Walking tours are very popular in and around Annapolis, and can include everything from history to cultural heritage to maritime life to scenic beauty. Tours can be self-guided or organized with the help of local professionals.

The most longstanding and active provider of Annapolis sightseeing tours is Watermark Tours, a professional tourism firm offering all things Annapolis, from boat tours to water taxis to Colonial guides. Watermark’s experienced guides provide walking tours through historic downtown Annapolis, the Maryland State House, and the United States Naval Academy.

Additional options include the Historic Ghost Walk, the Colonial Stroll, the African-American Heritage Tour in February, the Historic Hauntings tour in October, and the Holiday Candlelight Stroll in December.

Stop by the U.S. Naval Academy’s Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center to chat with a Visitor Center information specialist, view the 13-minute film, The Call to Serve, and take a walking tour of the campus with a professional Naval Academy guide.

The festive Annapolis by Candlelight tour is hosted by Historic Annapolis annually during the holidays. This fundraiser tour is a rare opportunity to see the interiors of some cherished public and private 18th- and 19th-century architectural icons. Visitors may follow the tour route at their own pace, as informed volunteer guides await in each of the homes.

Historic Annapolis also offers advance reservation group tours at the organization’s historic properties, including the William Paca House and Garden, the James Brice House, and Hogshead on Pinkney Street.

The 1774 Hammond Harwood House museum offers the annual Secret Garden Tour fundraiser in early June, a self-guided walking tour that offers a behind-the-scenes look at some private gardens in downtown Annapolis.

Capital City Colonial’s Historic Annapolis Food Tour winds through historic sites as guests enjoy a series of lunch dishes from restaurants in downtown Annapolis. The food tour combines culture, history, and architecture with a multi-course progressive dining experience.

Tours and Crawls offers both family-friendly walking ghost tours and, for the over-21 crowd, a variety of pub crawls and tavern tours. These guided tours include the Walking Ghost Tour of Historic Annapolis, the Haunted Pub Crawl, and the Twisted History Tavern Tour.

In addition to walking tours, groups and visitors can enjoy a tour of Annapolis by horse and carriage, trolley, Segway, kayak, water taxi, tour boat, and even sailing schooner.

No matter what historic meeting site catches your attention, your attendees are sure to appreciate the appeal and charm that comes along with it. Remember our tips when booking with a historic site, and drink in the culture.