Statue of Francis Scott Key (Image courtesy: Potomac Appalachian Trail Club GPS Rangers)

Francis Scott Key Park

The Francis Scott Key Park is located at 34th and M Street, NW, Washington DC, in the Georgetown Historic District. Francis Scott Key lived in a house at this location from 1803 until 1833. The house was dismantled and stored at this location in 1947 for the construction of the Whitehurst Freeway. The park and memorial to Francis Scott Key was built by the Francis Scott Key Foundation and donated the National Park Service in 1993.

The park occupies a prominent site overlooking the Potomac River at the Key Bridge entrance to the District of Columbia in Georgetown. It is adjacent to the historic C & O Canal and Tow Path, and near the site of Key’s home at the time he wrote the anthem. The design includes gentle terraces of meadow-like plantings which follow the steep terrain and allow interesting vistas of the Washington scene, both far and near. The park’s centerpiece is an arbored brick and sandstone terrace that provides the setting for a bronze bust of Francis Scott Key by sculptor Betty Mailhouse Dunston. In a greensward nearby, a fifteen-star, fifteen-stripe flag flies day and night. It is a replica of the flag that inspired the anthem as it flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the bombing by the British in 1814. Seatwalls set against the slopes and a secondary terrace overlooking the canal welcome visitors to rest and reflect on the historical significance of this place.

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Image Credit: Statue of Francis Scott Key (Image courtesy: Potomac Appalachian Trail Club GPS Rangers)

Hours

Dawn to Dusk

(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)

Fees

No fee

Activities

The park is designed to offer opportunities for passive reflection.

Facilities

The centerpiece of the site, a brownstone and brick plaza, comprises a wisteria-draped limestone pergola and a bronze bust of Key sculpted by Betty Mailhouse Dunston. The bust is positioned towards a 60-foot flagpole topped with a replica of the 15-star flag that inspired Key’s poem. Magnolia trees and formal sweeps of colorful perennials surround the plaza.

History

The park is located where Francis Scott Key’s house used to stand. Key, a lawyer, and his wife Mary Tayloe Lloyd Key lived there during the War of 1812.

During the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814, Key served an aide to Brig. Gen. Walter Smith of the Washington, DC, militia.

Later that day, the Keys watched from their house as the British burned the Nation’s Capital.

A few days later, Key met with British commanders to help negotiate the release of American Dr. William Beanes, who the British had captured at his Upper Marlboro home.

Anchored among the British fleet on the Patapsco River, Key watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry.

When he saw the American flag flying over the fort, he began writing lyrics to the song that was eventually called “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

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Last updated: January 11, 2019
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