Historic St. Mary’s City, Maryland

St. Mary’s City was the fourth permanent English settlement in North America and the first capital of the Province of Maryland. The first statute providing for (limited) religious toleration was enacted in the State House that is reconstructed on the site. The site features very little in the way of reconstruction, however, making it something an anti-Williamsburg, leaving most of the city’s colonial appearance to the imagination. (Which approach is more to your taste is something like the difference between preferring television or radio: it is endlessly debatable but in the end, you can enjoy both.) The site is off the beaten track (although a reasonable drive from Washington, D.C., or Baltimore) and seldom crowded, providing a wonderful atmosphere for leisurely viewing the exhibits in the Visitor Center and roaming the grounds to give the imagination time to do its work. One special feature is that archaeologists are busy on the grounds during the summer season. It’s usually possible to get a close-up look at their work and to find an eager archaeological field student to explain what they’re doing.

Located off Route 5 in Southern Maryland, travel time to Historic St. Mary’s City is less than two hours from Washington, D.C. and Annapolis and less than three hours from Richmond and Baltimore.

B & O Railroad Museum, Baltimore

Take our word for it: the B & O Railroad Museum is one of the most interesting museums you will ever visit. The museum is located in the Mt. Clare neighborhood of Baltimore, where America’s railroad history began. It was at Mt. Clare that the first mile of long distance rail was laid. From there, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad would extend west to the first station stop at Ellicott’s Mills (itself now the site of a fine little railroad museum), and across the Appalachian Mountains, into the Ohio River Valley. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad built the first major railroad yard at Mt. Clare, including the spectacular Roundhouse, which now holds the heart of the museum’s collection, consisting of historic steam diesel, and electric locomotives, as well as rare 19th and 20th century passenger and freight equipment. The museum’s wonderful collection of artifactsB and O Railroad includes textiles, lanterns, dining car china, silver, as well as communication devices, signals, and shop equipment. Also on display are hundreds of models ranging from early patent and prototype models to modern commercial model railroad kits. The museum includes the Hays T. Watkins Research Library, whose holdings include B&O Railroad business records, manuscript collections, maps, mechanical and engineering drawings, trade catalogues, periodicals, microforms, paper ephemera, as well as video tapes and motion picture films. Plan to take your time here, folks. And if you’re a railroad buff, we have to warn you that your loved ones may have trouble tearing you away. For a great day (or better, two days) of railroad history immersion, combine a visit to the B&O Railroad Museum with a trip to the Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum in the nearby suburb of Ellicott City. Also, be sure to consult our information on the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

Location and Directions

Links B & O Railroad Museum

Fort Frederick State Park

Fort Frederick is a rare example of a classic eighteenth century fortification design on the American frontier. Most American frontier forts were little more than wooden stockades, and their design paid minimal attention to the elaborate engineering that was used to provide adequate covering fire in European forts. Fort Frederick was built with stone walls and carefully designed bastions for covering fire. (Walk around the fort and see for yourself how every spot along the wall is well covered from multiple angles.) The fort provided defense on Maryland’s frontier during the last French and Indian War (1754-1763). As late as the Civil War, it served as a camp for Confederate prisoners of war. The Fort’s stone wall and two barracks have been restored to their 1758 appearance. The site features excellent historic displays, and hosts several fine reenactment events during the year.

Click here for map of Fort Frederick and surrounding areas.

Official Web Page

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

Long before Baltimore had the Inner Harbor, there was Fort McHenry, the original “Star Spangled Banner” place. Now, we’ve never been fans of the national anthem (it’s only singable at baseball games, where the beer certainly helps), but Fort McHenry is an interesting and scenic place. The fort, designed in the classic star shape of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, was built to guard Baltimore’s harbor. Francis Scott Key’s poem, later set to music, records a spectacular assault on Fort McHenry by the British navy on September 13-14, 1814. The fort held, thwarting the British attempt to seize the port of Baltimore. Fort McHenry never again came under attack, but it remained an active military post off and on for the next 100 years.

Click here to view a location map of Fort McHenry and surrounding areas.