Skip to Main Content

Maryland's National Register Properties

Tour: Civil War (17 of 17)



Photo credit: MHT File Photo, Undated Photo
Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine
Inventory No.: B-8
Date Listed: 10/15/1966
Location: Fort Avenue & Locust Point, Baltimore, Baltimore City
Category: Structure
Period/Date of Construction: 1794-1803

Description: Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine appears, in most respects, much as it did in 1933 when the War Department transferred ownership to the National Park Service. As originally constructed, the earthen and masonry star fort was laid out as a regular pentagon with a bastion at each angle. The distance between the points of adjacent bastions is about 290'. The parade ground is also in the configuration of a pentagon (about 150' per side) within which are the former officers' quarters, barracks, and powder magazine. Among the principal historic structures on the exterior of the fort are the ravelin, the water (outer) battery, and the Civil War powder magazine. The boundaries of the property encompass all the land that originally comprised Fort McHenry at the time of the British bombardment in 1814 and most of the additional acreage acquired by the War Department in 1836. The present landscape around the fort consists of a grass lawn, ornamental fruit trees, and native and exotic shade trees and shrubs. Significance: The successful defense of Fort McHenry against a British naval attack in 1814 assisted in the defense of Baltimore and inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner." Threatened by war with either England or France, the Federal government, aided by local citizenry, erected this fort between 1794 and 1803 on Whetstone Point, where it could command the entrance to Baltimore harbor. It replaced an 18-gun fort, known as Fort Whetstone, which was erected on the site in 1776. The new fort was one in a series of fortifications constructed for the defense of the eastern coast. Despite the loss of integrity of the surrounding site and modifications of individual buildings and structures, Fort McHenry's extant resources continue to embody a high degree of integrity reflecting the fort's national importance as a coastal defense work from the period of its initial construction (1794-1802) to the end of improvements constructed immediately following the Civil War. After this time, Fort McHenry functioned primarily as a garrison until its closure in 1912, later serving in various capacities that included World War I hospital and World War II Coast Guard training facility. The broad significance of the fort is recognized as encompassing these and other later periods. However, the primary physical expression of the fort in its capacity as a coastal defense work is best reflected in the resources constructed between approximately 1800 and 1867.
Return to the National Register Search page