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There is a partial view of Baltimore Harbor from the fort walls.
Fort McHenry National Monument
Closest available address
2400 East Fort Avenue Baltimore, MD 21230
Park is open 9-6, and visitor center is open 9-5:45, longer hours in summer.
Best time to visit
Summer, Fall, Spring
Fort McHenry National Monument preserves an 18th century brick fort that helped prevent the British from capturing Baltimore during the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key witnessed the British naval bombardment of the fort and composed a poem that would later become the US National Anthem. The 60 acre historical site includes the fort itself, some additional historical buildings and an interpretive museum.
The fort was the second to occupy the grounds and was built from 1798-1800. It was defended by approximately 1,000 US troops and local militia. The British attacked Baltimore by both land and sea in 1814. The land approach was initially more successful but could not be supported by the fleet until Fort McHenry was taken. British ship cannon had a longer range than fort cannon, but the distant bombardment caused little damage and after 25 hours the attack was called off. The successful defense of Baltimore was a major turning point in the war. The fort was a prisoner of war facility in the Civil War and a hospital in World War I. It became a park in 1925.
The museum was small and displays on the fort’s design and service were fairly basic. An annoyance was that the park film, which ends on a patriotic note and view of the fort, plays in the main museum area and other interactive videos and displays are disabled when the film is shown. The fort itself has been nicely restored to its historical appearance but access to a number of interior areas was unavailable; only a few rooms were open including a barracks, officer quarters and a magazine. One of the more interesting rooms had displays on the fort’s uses following the War of 1812. As a historical site, Fort McHenry was decent on information but skimpy on access. Given its patriotic appeal though and its place in American history, most visitors to Baltimore will appreciate a visit here. Kids will enjoy living history days in summer during which park staff in period attire represent soldiers and sailors.
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