Friday, September 17
Today started early with a Baltimore City & Fort McHenry Sightseeing Tour by Viator. There were several stops to give us a taste of this city’s culture and long history.
First stop was at Federal Hill which we could see from our hotel room. Federal Hill Park, south of the Inner Harbor, was a favorite place for public gatherings in Baltimore. In 1788, thousands of local citizens celebrated Maryland’s ratification of the US Constitution with a parade that ended there. One of the parade floats was a 15 foot scale model of a fully rigged sailboat, named the ”Federalist,” which was to be installed at the park. After a bit of celebrating, some of the citizens decided to push the boat down the hill and launch it in the harbor. It was later sailed down the Chesapeake and up the Potomac to be presented to George Washington at Mount Vernon.
A few years later, a military battalion was set up here during the War of 1812, blocking the enemy’s path, and the British decided to attack Fort McHenry instead. Federal Park was also used by the Union Army to during the Civil War, more to prevent Maryland from seceding than to protect it from the Confederacy. The views from Federal Hill were impressive, although it was a bit rainy and hazy this morning.
It was a beautiful day to stop at the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. We weren’t there at the right time to watch the flag raising or lowering, which is an impressive ceremony. I had visited almost 10 years ago, and was able to experience a display about the Flag that moved me to tears. Hopefully, it won’t be long before others can have that experience again. Fort McHenry and the War of 1812 provided the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to write our nation’s anthem: “The Star Spangled Banner.” On September 14, 1814, a little more than 200 years ago, Key wrote a poem called “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” about a long flag flying at daybreak after a day-long bombardment by the British. The British weren’t able to take the fort, and they weren’t able to take down the flag. Key’s poem was later set to music and became our national anthem in 1931.
We visited the Little Italy district. Is it too early for gelato? How about pasta and wine? Next stop Fells Point, one of Baltimore’s oldest neighborhoods, established in 1763, and once a major shipbuilding port. It is home to the oldest standing residence in Baltimore, the Robert Long House, built in 1765. For Edgar Allan Poe fans, The Horse You Came in On Saloon is rumored to be his last stop before his death.
That was a lot to do before lunch, and a great deal of history in about 10 square miles of the city. After lunch, we spent a few hours at The National Aquarium, which opened in 1981. The aquarium is home to more than 750 species. Visitors start on the main level and move up four more levels to see the exhibits. This was one of the most interesting aquariums we have ever visited.
The Marine Mammal Pavilion houses the Aquarium’s dolphin colony, consisting of four females and two males. There were no shows today, but we were able to watch them swimming in the tank.
Tonight, we enjoyed an Inner Harbor Sunset Sail, also by Viator. It was a perfect evening for sailing, with a gentle breeze and comfortable temperature.
By the way, the Domino Sugars is one of the largest neon signs in the country, measuring 70 feet by 120 feet. The original sign was installed in 1951, at a cost of $75,000, but had deteriorated over the years. It was shut down in February this year, new LED lights were installed for about $2 million. The sign was relit on July 4, as background to a fireworks show put on by Domino Sugars.