German immigrant Frederick Grammar built this substantial brick structure at 99 Main Street soon after a January 1790 fire destroyed most of the buildings along the waterfront block. Merchant Lewis Neth set up shop here by the end of that year.
In the early morning hours of January 21, 1790, a fire broke out in Richard Fleming’s bakehouse on what is now the corner of Main and Green streets. The fire destroyed most of the buildings along the waterfront block.
German immigrant Frederick Grammar built the brick building now standing at 99 Main Street soon after the fire, and fellow immigrant Lewis Neth moved his store to the new structure in late 1791. By 1798, a small brick kitchen stood behind the larger building. In the late 19th century, the kitchen was converted into a dwelling oriented to Green Street, and part of the Main Street store was modified for residential use. In 1908 Lithuanian immigrant Moses Rolnick bought the two buildings separately, then ten years later they were sold together to Russian immigrants Louis and Pauline Bloom.
In the 1950s, a structural wall was accidentally demolished at 99 Main Street, and the city ordered that the building be razed. A group of Historic Annapolis board members formed Port of Annapolis, Inc. to purchase the property and finance its restoration and adaptive reuse. Restoration was completed in 1960, and the site opened as the Sports and Specialties Shop. In 1970, it became the location of the Sign o’ the Whale.
Preservation of this prominent dockside property marked the beginning of the restoration of the Annapolis waterfront.
The latest phase in the life of this historic building began with a 2004-06 project to transform it into a preservation and education center named in honor of St. Clair Wright, a founder and longtime leader of Historic Annapolis.
Crews removed much of the 1950s building material, being careful to preserve the older structural fabric. Modern electrical, HVAC, plumbing, water, fire detection and suppression, telecommunications, and data systems were installed to equip the 18th-century building for 21st-century visitors. An elevator tower was built against 196 Green Street to provide access to all floors of both buildings without compromising the site’s street-side facades.