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National Park Service logoTeri 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. photo of Hampton Mansion exterior

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.  

Star Spangled historic trail logoAlso 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.  

photo of CHarles StreetAnother 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. 


Michael L. Schneider, Community Outreach Liaison, Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks

At the risk of giving away my age – I’ll start this blog with another paraphrased punch line from an old TV commercial…

This HOT Baltimore summer, “How do you spell relief?”

B-A-L-T-I-M-O-R-E- C-O-U-N-T-Y –P-A-R-K-S

It’s better than some old medicine – Your relief this summer comes in the form of the many beautiful waterfront parks that can be found throughout our County!

Now, if you are anything like me, your first instinctive response to “waterfront parks” might be, Rocky Point Beach and Oregon Ridge Beach.  And, YES, you would be right!  More on these incredible wet and wonderful places later on in this blog…

But did you know there are lots more waterfront parks in our County than many of us can even begin to imagine – who knew?? 

Waterfront Parks  are, indeed, plentiful and offer so much more than a gentle breeze and beautiful views. We are talking shorelines, fishing, boat ramps, boat rentals (at one particular site) and of course, a variety of other amenities you will love on a hot summer day when you “seek the relief.”  Pavilions, ball fields, playgrounds, trails, multipurpose courts – it is a long list of options for you at these waterfront havens! 

Imagine, sitting on the shoreline looking out on the incredible Chesapeake Bay or one of its magnificent tributaries.  Now, imagine a fishing pole in hand, with a cool drink by your side (are you getting the picture?!)  Or, how about for you Mr. and Ms. Boat Owner – seven, count ‘em, seven boat ramps around the county at Cox’s Point, Inverness, Merritt Point , Rocky Point, Southwest Area, Turner Station and Wilson Point Parks.  Imagine easing out onto the beautiful waters under the clear blue sky seeing magnificent birds flying above you and knowing the bounty of the bay or Patapsco is below you.  Life is good, isn’t it!

Now, back to that fishing…how about doing it in another “jewel” of our County. The Loch Raven Fishing Center  is just “luring” you to come on out (you took the “bait” on that one, didn’t you?!).   Only a 2,400 acre reservoir stands between you and a large - or small - mouth bass, yellow perch, northern pike and a variety of other catches of the day.  You need to know that docking and launch permits for the 2014 season are sold out (talk about your hot ticket!), but there is still the opportunity to rent a boat or canoe and all the fishing gear you will need for a few hours on the water.  Your friends at Baltimore County Recreation and Parks want you to enjoy  Loch Raven Fishing Center  for all it is worth, be certain to read the above link for all of the important facility rules.  If you have additional questions, give the good folks at the Fishing Center a call at 410-887-7692.  This could be “reel” fun!

Of course, there’s always the chance to soak in some fine learning while relaxing near the water.   Destinations like Marshy Point Nature Center feature protected environmental areas whose educational displays and programs emphasize the Chesapeake Bay and its ecosystem.  Imagine your kids (and you!) learning something – and having a great time all the while!

Of course, the “big two” water front areas that folks associate with Baltimore County would be those beautiful beaches of ours – Rocky Point Beach and Park and  Oregon Ridge Beach. photo of Rocky Point beach  Let’s skip the three, four or more hour jaunt down Route 50 and play the part of the beachcomber practically in your own back yard!  Each beach features beautiful sites to see, lots of waterfront and the security and confidence in well trained guards. 

Didja Know…

The Baltimore Sailing Center is located at Rocky Point?  Lessons are offered for individuals and groups.  And over at Oregon Ridge Beach, there is shallow and deep water for swimming  and all kinds of amenities to make your day at the beach a bundle of fun and pretty darned convenient to boot!

Here’s a sampling of some other waterfront fun awaiting you in Baltimore County Parks…

Robert E. Lee Park – canoeing and kayaking on Lake Roland

Fort Howard Park – Fishing and pier

Battle Grove Park - Shoreline

Inverness Park – Fishing and Boat Ramp

Merritt Point Park – Fishing and Boat Ramp

Turner Station Park – Fishing and Boat Ramp

Southwest Area Park – Boat ramp and Pier (access to the Patapsco River)

For more information on the above, and other Waterfront Parks , click here.

And in the name of “good times,” we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Gunpowder Falls State Park  which is located in Baltimore County.  Their telephone number is 410-592-2897.

So there you have it – it is a certainty that it is going to be hot and sticky this summer; and your wild and wet relief really can be spelled out B-A-L-T-I-M-O-R-E- -C-O-U-N-T-Y- -P-A-R-K-S.  In the words of another old-time TV commercial – Oh, what a relief it is!!

By the way – Baltimore County Recreation and Parks office is proud to be honoring its earlier “guarantee” – there has not been one snow flake in the county since we made that promise way back in April!  We kept that promise, now you have to believe our promise that our parks are a great option to beat the heat – and to have a great time!


photo of Redcoats in reenactmentPaul Rosenberger
Dundalk Patapsco Neck Historical Society and Museum, Inc.

Defenders Day Features Walking Tours

Take a walking tour at Fort Howard Park during Defenders Day celebrations September 7 & 8, and learn about how the area has more history than the Battle of North Point!

Dundalk Historical Society volunteer Ray Scott will explain how Fort Howard is also historically significant for reasons other than the British landing in 1814. From 1898 until 1927, this property was an Endicott Period Coast Artillery installation that housed as many as 18 huge artillery guns purposed to protect Baltimore from attack by enemy naval vessels attempting to enter the Patapsco River.

The weapons at Fort Howard included two 12-inch disappearing rifles and eight 12-inch mortars. All of those guns could rain massive, 1000-pound explosive shells on any spot in the Chesapeake or the Patapsco within a 10-mile radius of North Point.

Walking tours of Fort Howard's old coast artillery gun emplacements are scheduled for 11 AM and 2 PM each day. The tours will begin at the Fort Howard History tent next to Battery Stricker. 

Dundalk Historical Website Features Complete Defenders Day Info

The Dundalk Historical Society and Museum, Inc., has launched its new website – www.dundalkhistory.org – to publicize Defenders Day 2013 events, reach a wider audience and make everyone aware of just how much the Society can offer the community. Defenders Day 2013 is featured prominently on the new site. Find the complete schedule and more information at www.dundalkhistory.org/defenders-day.html.

One of the biggest priorities of the site is to gather email addresses for a mailing list. You can register by accessing the Contact form on the Support page of the website or through the Society’s official Facebook page (don’t forget to “like” the page).

Defenders Day Isn’t Over When It’s Over

Once Defender’s Day 2013 observances end, other events will lead up to the bicentennial celebration. There will be a special event in Dundalk at 7 PM on Thursday, Oct. 17, when the U.S. Naval Academy Concert Band performs at the Dundalk Middle community auditorium on Dunmanway. Admission and parking are free.

The event is presented in partnership with the Baltimore County Office of Promotion and Tourism and the Star Spangled 200 Committee. For more information about the Defenders Day celebration, call the Historical Society at (410)284-2331, or visit www.dundalkhistory.org/defenders-day.html.

Canadians Represent the British at Defenders Day 2013

Almost 200 years after the British invaded the North Point peninsula, new arrivals will take their place in an attempt to do the same. Dozens of re-enactors from Ontario, Canada, will stand in for British forces during the 199th anniversary celebration of Defenders Day, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, September 7 and 8, at Fort Howard Park.

This year, Defenders Day events will expand to two days in anticipation of next year’s bicentennial celebration. There will be lots of activity over the weekend at Fort Howard Park, highlighted by about 90 re-enactors who will do battle twice on Saturday and once on Sunday.

“We’ve enhanced the whole event from top to bottom,” said Harry Young, who has chaired the event for the last nine years. “We’ll have three battle re-enactments, more volunteers and more sponsors than ever before.”


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