Baltimore County News
Teri Rising, Historic Preservation Planner
Department of Planning
Fall is a great time to get out and explore Baltimore County’s history. Why not take some time to visit some of the well known and lesser known places that are a just a small part of the diverse network of sites administered and supported by the National Park Service, an agency of the Department of the Interior, which was established in 1916. These sites, trails and programs represent various historic themes from the Chesapeake Bay to General George Washington. Together, they share national significance and provide opportunities for visitors to learn about Baltimore County’s role in our nation’s history.
Baltimore County is home to one of the most interesting National Park sites in the region. Hampton National Historic Site on Hampton Lane just north of Towson is also a partner site on the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Trail. The park comprises a well preserved collection of structures, including the grand Georgian mansion facing Hampton Lane, that tells the story of the Ridgely family and the people, both free and enslaved, that helped contribute to Baltimore County’s domestic, agricultural and industrial history. Tours are available of the buildings and gardens.
A number of National Historic Trails are located in Baltimore County for visitors to explore. The Underground Railroad refers to the effort of enslaved African Americans to gain their freedom by escaping bondage. The Network to Freedom National Historic Trail was established as part of the National Park Service to expand and support local efforts to coordinate education and preservation of sites that demonstrate the significance of the Underground Railroad not only in the eradication of slavery, but as a cornerstone of our national civil rights movement. The privately owned “Gorsuch Tavern” on York Road in Sparks joins Hampton National Historic Site as part of The Network to Freedom National Historic Trail. The tavern is connected to the trail by the theme of slaves, escape from slavery, and the effort of the owner to recapture his slaves by force, resulting in a celebrated trial that inflamed the tensions already existing between north and south after the compromise of 1850.
Known as “The Route to Victory”, the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail runs from Rhode Island to Virginia. It traces the route of American and French troops, led by General Washington and General Rochambeau who united against the British Army during the Yorktown Campaign. The route follows the historic Philadelphia Road in Baltimore County, which was one of the original post roads in the area and an important route for travelers in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network is a collection of National Historic Trails and partner sites that help visitors learn about the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries and how they influenced where and how people lived in its watershed. The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the first National Historic Water Trail, lets visitors experience and learn about the Chesapeake Bay through the routes and places associated with Smith’s explorations. In Baltimore County, the trail includes the Gunpowder Falls State Park.
Also part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, the Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail is a 560-mile land and water route that tells the story of the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake Bay region. It connects historic sites in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia and commemorates the events leading up to the Battle for Baltimore, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write our National Anthem. The trail includes several sites in Baltimore County including Todd’s Inheritance, Fort Howard Park, and Battle Acre Park. The Chesapeake Explorer App is a great tool which can help assist visitors with their exploration of these important places.
The Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail is also part of the Baltimore National Heritage Area, a collection of places in the Baltimore region that form a cohesive, nationally important landscape. Led by the Baltimore Heritage Area Association, this national heritage area is dedicated to educating visitors about the people and places that helped make Baltimore such an important American city.
Another important component of the Baltimore National Heritage Area is the Charles Street National Scenic Byway, which is one of only four National Scenic Byways located in an urban area. The byway follows Charles Street north from Baltimore City into Baltimore County where it features wooded natural beauty and several important historic sites like the Sheppard Pratt Gatehouse, one of only two National Historic Landmarks in Baltimore County. Following the byway to its northern end will lead visitors to the Lutherville National Historic District, a village founded in 1852 by Lutheran ministers that is known for its excellent collection of Victorian homes.
Fronda Cohen, Director, Baltimore County Commission on Arts & Sciences
How do you honor a war 200 years after it ended? Our buildings, museums and parks are filled with monuments, historic markers and remembrances of battles won and battles valiantly fought and lost. What ties these commemorations together is a desire to honor our soldiers and the families and communities that supported their service.
How do you create a remembrance that speaks to history and also engages people today?
The Baltimore County Commission on Arts & Sciences took on the challenge of finding a way to use public art to honor Baltimore County’s role in the War of 1812. They saw the battlefield at North Point as the centerpiece. Here, a crucial military engagement stalled British land forces so American troops could fortify Ft. McHenry and save Baltimore from capture.
Battle Acre Park on North Point Road in Dundalk is an earlier commemoration of that important battle. Today, overlooking a newly renovated park, is new public art mural that captures not only the history and leaders of the battle, but the fighting spirit of its citizen soldiers and the pride residents took in their service.
The “Home of the Brave” mural features the battle engagement, with American troops holding formation, blocking British troops from advancing. This panel is flanked by portraits of the battle’s military leaders, U.S. General John Stricker and British General Robert Ross. Another panel highlights the historic Todd’s Inheritance homestead, showing rural life in eastern Baltimore County during the early 1800s. A final scene shows a celebration ceremony held in 1839, just 25 years after the Battle of North Point was waged on the site.
After the fireworks are over, the “Home of the Brave” mural will remain to remind us of the bravery and commitment of America’s citizen soldiers. Visit Baltimore County’s Battle Acre Park and remember a legacy of service that lives on today.
The “Home of the Brave” mural was designed and painted by artist Marshall Adams and is a project of the Baltimore County Commission on Arts & Sciences in partnership with the Dundalk Renaissance Corporation. Funding was provided through grants from The Citizens of Baltimore County and the Maryland State Arts Council.