Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine


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Fort McHenry is best known for its role in the War of 1812, when it defended Baltimore Harbor against an attack by the British navy. It was first built in 1798 and saw military service up through WWII. First designated a national park in 1925, it was re-designated a “National Monument and Historic Shrine” in 1939.


On the morning following the decisive battle in the War of 1812, the victorious American soldiers raised a large flag over the fort. Seeing the 14-star flag flying in the smoke and aftermath of the battle inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem “Defence of Fort M’Henry.” Later set to music, it became the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem.


It is tradition that when a new flag is designed it first flies over Fort McHenry. The first official 49- and 50-star American flags were flown over the fort and the originals are still there. The Star Spangled Banner flying outside over the fort is a replica of the one that inspired Francis Scott Key.


The fort is in an industrial area on the outskirts of Baltimore. If you are driving there, use the directions from the website. GPS will get you lost once you get off the highway. You can also take the ferry from Inner Harbor, but you can only take it back as a return trip (no using the fort’s lot for free parking while visiting the city.) You can see my post on Baltimore National Heritage Area by clicking here.


We visited on a 100 degree Fahrenheit day with young children. Too hot for the kids to do the junior ranger thing, we started with the movie in the air-conditioned visitor center…it’s actually moving as well as informative. It’s short, about ten minutes.


We perused some interesting exhibits in the visitor’s center. Did I mention the air conditioning? And that we were there on the hottest weekend of the summer? The exhibits were cool…literally.


Then we braved the swampy inferno and walked out to the fort to see the cannons and the Star Spangled replica. There were lots of rangers around during our visit, which was great because the kids had questions which the rangers were happy to answer.


Location: 2400 E Fort Ave, Baltimore, MD 21230

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: 3/3/1925

Date of my visit: July 17, 2013


7 thoughts on “Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

  1. Pingback: National Parks USA Fort McHenry National Monument: Happy Birthday ‘Star Spangled Banner!’

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