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Baltimore National Heritage Area

Since its founding in 1729, Baltimore has played a key role in creating the American identity. Explore its inspiring history shaped by centuries of innovation, extraordinary sights, and a truly diverse culture. Discover the people and places that make Baltimore an unforgettable American city. With outstanding architecture, scenic parks, fascinating historic sites, and world-class museums, Baltimore has everything to offer visitors. Urban heritage trails wind through historic neighborhoods and make a pleasant afternoon excursion. Museums cater to every whim, from Civil War history buffs to kids who want to explore the wonders of science. The collection of virtual itineraries provides a great way to begin your Baltimore journey. Expand your visit with a drive along one of several scenic byways and national historic trails that wind through the city, or take a break and wind down in one of the city’s great parks.  

It is without question that the City of Baltimore was built by generations of African Americans. From Baltimore’s earliest days as a small port in Colonial Maryland, black hands—free and enslaved—laid the building foundations and built the ship keels that would make the city a center of commerce and culture on the Chesapeake Bay. Subsequent generations endured the horrors of war, celebrated the establishment of churches and esteemed civic organizations, created wondrous works of art, and fought for equality and freedom for all. Today these contributions to the city and the nation are commemorated by a constellation of world-class museums, renowned institutions, and thoughtful and moving monuments, statues, and sculptures.

For a brief few days in September 1814, the fate of the young United States hung in the balance. With the U.S. capital still smoldering from attack, British forces focused on Baltimore to complete their campaign to end the War of 1812. In three weeks, Baltimore readied for the attack – building defensive lines and readying the chain of forts protecting the city.

The British launched two attacks. Ground forces landed at nearby North Point to assault the city from the east while the navy moved to engage Fort McHenry protecting the heart of the city. After two days of fighting, it was clear the defenders of Baltimore proved victorious. As the British forces retreated, the Star-Spangled Banner rose above Fort McHenry and inspired Francis Scott Key to put to words the emotions and passions of a triumphant young nation.

While much has changed in the 200 years since the perilous battle, the Baltimore region proudly boasts of a wealth of historic sites and neighborhoods that tell the story of the War of 1812 and the national icons now woven into our shared history.

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Last updated: May 31, 2015
Star Spangled Banner Trail
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