There was a time when people were ho-hum about history.
They weren’t interested in preserving buildings, they weren’t interested in learning stories. But today, history has become both a selling point and the star factor when it comes to venues. People seek places that have a past because that past imbues heart and soul into any event.
Here is a handful of significant historic sites that welcome groups meeting in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Battleship New Jersey
Camden, New Jersey
The most impressive thing about the Battleship New Jersey anchored in Camden, New Jersey, is that it is “in fact, a battleship — especially the nation’s most-decorated and longest-serving battleship,” said Jack Willard, senior vice president of marketing and sales for the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial.
Technically, the USS Enterprise earned 20 battle stars in World War II, one more than the USS New Jersey, but the Enterprise is no longer afloat. The New Jersey is an Iowa-class battleship that was built to house a crew of more than 1,900 people, so for events, the ship can accommodate groups of 50 to 3,000 people in 11 spaces.
The Crew’s Mess can seat 250 for dinner or be divided into two smaller spaces, and the Officer’s Wardroom can accommodate 80 for a seated meal. The Main Deck Portside and the Fantail are popular for summer events for 100 to 150 people because they’re both outdoors and both “offer amazing views of the [Philadelphia] skyline and the Delaware River,” he said.
When gathering on the battleship, meeting groups can take the standard 90-minute guided tour or a 30-minute guided tour of the main deck. People are initially wowed by the sheer size of the ship, but once aboard, they love seeing the 16-inch guns — the biggest in the Navy — and how the crew lived aboard the ship.
“[They love] seeing that the ship was truly a city at sea with its own restaurant, laundry and post office,” Willard said. “It’s a small city but a large ship.”
Groups can arrange special add-ons for events, such as having a retired Navy veteran attend to “share what life was truly like aboard the battleship.” The ship’s team-building program is designed to mimic a Navy mission, and each team must fulfill its assignment to help the fleet win the battle.
Planners can also have a Navy veteran activate the ship’s 5-inch guns and allow their event’s guest of honor or VIP to pull the remote trigger.
“It makes a nice fireball; you get a huge bang,” he said. “It’s a nice way of starting off the event or ending it with a bang.”
Historic Inns of Annapolis
George Washington often traveled from his estate in Mount Vernon, Virginia, to Philadelphia during the American Revolution, and during his travels, he often stopped at the Maryland Inn in Annapolis to eat, rest, socialize and get his horse groomed.
The Maryland Inn is one of three boutique hotels that together make up the Historic Inns of Annapolis and offer guests an unparalleled historic experience. The original Governor Calvert House dates to 1695 and was home to Gov. Benedict Leonard Calvert, who held office from 1727 to 1731. The Maryland Inn has hosted U.S. presidents, legislators and foreign dignitaries since the late 1700s, among them delegates of the 1783-1784 U.S. Congress of the Confederation, who stayed at the inn when Washington resigned as commander in chief. The Robert Johnson House is a grand brick home that was built in 1773.
The three properties, which are operated as one hotel, are within a five-minute walk of each other around State Circle, which rings the Maryland State House. The 51-room Governor Calvert House has 8,800 square feet of flexible meeting space, including the 2,400-square-foot Governor’s Hall that can be split into three rooms, all of which open onto a terrace. An 1,800-square-foot atrium and prefunction area divides the hall from five conference rooms. In the parlor, a glass floor gives guests a glimpse of the original foundation beneath them.
The 44-room Maryland Inn has another 2,800 square feet of function space, the largest of which is the inn’s original 1,000-square-foot ballroom. At the inn, guests can dine in the glow of the fireplace at the Treaty of Paris restaurant. The 29-room Robert Johnson House does not have meeting space but is composed of three elegantly restored homes. Hotel staff also provide historic tours of the properties to meeting and event groups.