National Monument 3: Fort McHenry

For our last day together in Washington, DC, before we parted ways for the summer, the Other Half and I decided to visit the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Then we realized it was a Saturday during the summer, so we set out to find something else to do. We discovered we had the prime opportunity to visit a bucket list site, Fort McHenry National Monument. Fort McHenry is also a Historic Shrine, but we didn’t see the Shrine circus while we were there. Just kidding, but Fort McHenry is the only National Monument which is also a shrine.

We were so excited about getting to the site that we neglected to take into account the crime rate in the neighborhood we were waiting on the bus in. A nice fellow politely asked if we were from the area and advised that we should be out before dark so we wouldn’t find trouble. Isn’t that reassuring? We talked to him for about an hour while we waited on the bus (which was running 30 minutes late) and debated going to find the site on foot. Then I was reminded that I could barely walk the night before, so we just hunkered down and waited.

We hadn’t really looked up the fort before we got there, so when we saw this as we walked up, we were a bit dumbfounded:

Why was there a giant bronze statue of Orpheus in the middle of this area? Because this is where Francis Scott Key wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner” in the War of 1812.

They also had a live statue of a squirrel, but it definitely wasn’t writing any poignant lyrics.

We didn’t see that squirrel move once while we were watching it..

Anyway, the fort has a recreational trail around it that looks over the harbor and gives you a view of the fort.

We walked around the trail before meandering up into the fort proper.

About the time we were walking around the cannons, we realized there was apparently an entrance fee we had missed. We decided to finish our walk before we went to the Visitors’ Center to pay it, though.

The outside of the fort just looks like a hill with cannons (much like the picture), but the inside of the fort was actually pretty interesting. The park service had restored several of the buildings and invested in period furniture and signs for the exhibits.

They also invested in volunteers who took us by surprise by climbing onto the walls and looking out onto the water.

Inside one of the buildings is a whole archeological exhibit on the work they’d done at the fort. The greatest find they had was the original brace the US flag had stood on during the War of 1812.

How cool is that? They had to triangulate its position based off old photos and maps, and then dig several feet underground to uncover it.

Spending time at the fort was so much more fun than the aquarium would have been. There were only a few families and some joggers, so it wasn’t too crowded, and the ability to see a true piece of American history was definitely worth the trip. Also, the lack of a crowd made spending our last afternoon together for 12 weeks a much easier farewell since we could talk, chat, and laugh without fear of being run over by people.

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