Patriotism Begins at Home
Sample Chesapeake Country's Local Treasury of American Heritage this Fourt
by Mark Burns
This Fourth of July, set out to explore the American landscape of Chesapeake Country. Venture into the big cities for the big parades and lively parties or slip into tidewater towns for the down-home celebrations with baking contests and Main Street marches. Small town charms and lively cityscapes color the culture of the region, offering a diverse sampling of celebrations. There's something for nearly every patriotic taste in the Bay area, as you'll see here ...
photo at right courtesy of Roberta Cassard · Galesville Historical Society
Annapolis' historic streetscapes and revolutionary background give it an identity all its own. As capital of the U.S. in our nation's younger years, Annapolis saw the resignation of Washington from command of the Continental Army, the ratification of the Treaty of Paris and the Annapolis Convention, forerunner of the Constitutional Convention.
Each of Maryland's four signers of the Declaration of Independence resided here in Annapolis; three of the homes have become museums and the fourth is undergoing restoration. One, the Charles Carroll House, invites you to a day-long revolutionary celebration, including patriotic ceremony, a lecture on Maryland's role in independence and interpretive performances. The evening gets underway with an 18th century feast, Celtic music and waterside lawn seating for the city's fireworks.
Annapolis rallies to the Fourth with evening as well as nighttime festivities. First, celebrating citizens form a good-old-fashioned patriotic parade through historic downtown, The parade starts at Saint John's St., turns right onto College Ave., runs clockwise around Church Circle, heads down Main St., turns left on Randall St., right on King George St., into USNA Gate #1 and follows the perimeter road, disbanding at Farragut Field.
At the field, the Naval Academy Concert Band plays patriotic standards in a buildup to the spectacular fireworks over the harbor. Great views of the fireworks can also be found on the water and Eastport's street-end parks.
photo at left by Diane Knaus Diamond
Ceremony, lecture & performance 10-4; feast 5:30 @ Charles Carroll House, 107 Duke of Gloucester St. 10-4 activities and parking free; feast $30 w/discounts, rsvp: 410/269-1737 · Parade at 6:30 @ Historic Downtown. Free parking & shuttle service 4-midnight from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium: 410/263-1183 · Concert at 8; fireworks at 9:15 @ Farragut Field, US Naval Academy: 410/293-3109.
Maryland's big city is the birthplace of many things American. Our national anthem, the original Star Spangled Banner, Babe Ruth and the great American railroad all have their beginnings here.
Baltimore's patriotic pilgrimage has a natural starting point: our national anthem's birthplace. At Fort McHenry, Baltimore's defenders settled in for a fierce battle during the War of 1812, preventing the British fleet from reaching the city. Francis Scott Key saw the night battle from the deck of a British ship. There's a story in his unusual vantage point: in a twist of fate we've seen replayed in our own times, he boarded to negotiate the release of a friend and was taken hostage himself. Key's exhilaration at seeing the U.S. flag still flying over the fort after the night's battle inspired him to write the poem that was to become the "Star Spangled Banner." The United States' victory scored one for the underdogs, and Key's poem so caught the triumphant mood that it became an instant local hit.
Today, you can walk in the defenders' footsteps, touring the magazines, prison cells, battlements and headquarters of the star-shaped fort, which, like our flag, is still there. In the Visitor Center, you can see a film on the historic battle. Drive in or take the Water Taxi from Baltimore's Inner Harbor to get a peek at Key's perspective.
The proud banner that flew over Fort McHenry was sewn by Baltimore's own Mary Pickersgill, using an update of the design Betsy Ross made famous. It's a giant among flags: 42 feet in length with each star two feet wide from point to point and each stripe nearly two feet deep. For the second stop on your patriotic pilgrimage to Baltimore, you can tour the home where this flag was created. The house also has a museum commemorating the War of 1812 with a presentation on the war and the writing of the anthem. Appropriately, it's furnished in the Federal Period.
From battles to batters, make your way to the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Orioles Museum. Even the most avid Orioles fans can appreciate this house and museum commemorating the great American baseball Yankee. Though the Babe was born and raised in spartan surroundings, the museum has been refurnished to show the styles of the period. A treasure trove of memorabilia from his career as baseball's hero fill the space, and a bionic Babe acts as the official greeter. Die-hard Baltimore fans can stay happy with a collection of Oriole's artifacts that shares the house.
On the other side of the ballpark from Babe's house, you can get to know another first in American heritage. The B&O Railroad Museum occupies the oldest railway station in the nation, Mt. Clare Station, which gets credit as the birthplace of America's expansive railroads. Its roundhouse turntable still works, but the real head turners are the locomotives in the roundhouse and out in the yard. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad celebrates its 170th birthday on the Fourth, a deliberate coincidence caused by the railroad's founders' determination to demonstrate the significance of railroad to the growing nation. Today the station is quiet, recalling the golden days in historic programs. The iron horses of the railway's halcyon years are on display, with a mile-long ride on the Mt. Clare Express to the point where the first stone for the railroad was laid.
Finish up your tour with a patriotic bang at the Inner Harbor. The U.S. Navy Band entertains at the Harborplace Amphitheater as street performers entertain on the promenade. The World's Greatest Crab Feast Music Festival kicks off with an all-you-can-eat buffet of delicious fare. Finally comes what you've been waiting for: the rockets' red glare over the waters of Baltimore harbor.
Fort McHenry National Monument: 410/962-4290 · 10-4 @ Star Spangled Banner Flag House. $4: 410/837-1793 · Babe Ruth Museum: 216 Emory St., 410/727-1539 · B&O Railroad Museum: 901 W. Pratt St., 410/752-2490.
At the Bayside town of Chesapeake Beach, you can extend your patriotic pilgrimage to July fifth. Here, as well as an second helping of fireworks, you'll explore a seasid" chapter of American history.
Founded as a shoreside resort, Chesapeake Beach is the only small town on the Bay trying to connect with its amusement-town roots.
The brainchild of Russian immigrant and railroad builder Otto Mears, Chesapeake Beach was born in 1900 as a 1,600-foot boardwalk out in the Bay. It completed its transformation into the quintessential American amusement park with a carousel, dance pavilion, bandstand, game booths, bath houses and a roller coaster. Throughout its halcyon days, a mile-long pier received steamboat passengers from Baltimore, while the rail depot welcomed carloads of Washingtonian vacationers.
Today, minus one boardwalk amusement park, Chesapeake Beach harks back to its days as an all-American resort town as it draws summer's pleasure seekers in with the new scene. The four year old Chesapeake Beach Water Park cools off new crowds with a much more elaborate pool than its saltwater predecessor at Seaside Park. Today's waterpark gets splashy with two slides and a lazy river as well as pools, ponds and playthings.
Across the street sits Rod 'n' Reel, the center of culture for the new Chesapeake Beach. It attracts revelers from all over the region with its view, restaurant, outdoor cafe, bingo and summer weekend parties. Another lure is its fishing fleet. Standing ready to take you to the bounty of the Bay are a line of well-equipped charter boats - which are booked in advance by parties of six or more - plus the headboats Tom Hooker and Bounty Hunter, fishing daily with no reservations at bargain prices.
While checking out the new attractions, duck into the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum for a taste of the resort town that once was. In the small, restored depot you learn town history from the scale models, maps, photos, letters and artifacts from the boardwalk era, with friendly staffers on hand to offer insights.
While Chesapeake Beach lives again as a uniquely American tourist town, neighboring North Beach is as it was: a town to come home to. This town's identity is flavored by neighborhoods of young families, popular local pubs & eateries, a rare public beach on the Chesapeake and a strong contingent of Harley-Davidson enthusiasts.
North Beach carnival photo, at right, courtesy of Marion E. Warren
Calvert's Twin Beaches get a lot bigger for the Fourth of July weekend as throngs of travelers crowd the shore. Rod 'n' Reel goes all out as the epicenter for the celebration with an intense weekend of partying and family fun. Chesapeake Beach Water Park's refreshing attractions crowd with celebrants eager to beat the heat.
The grand finale on the fifth truly is a spectacle, as the Rod 'n' Reel strives to outdo the festivities of its Rose Haven rival, Herrington on the Bay. Fireworks blast over the Bay from Chesapeake Beach's twin jetties, launching and exploding over the wide expanse of water in synchronization with lively music. This year Mayor Gerald Donovan promises a "big surprise." Good vantage points are many: Rod 'n' Reel; the waterpark (which stays open till 10 for the festivities); the beach or boardwalk at North Beach; out on your boat in Chesapeake Bay.
Fireworks at dusk @ Rod 'n' Reel: 301/855-8351 · 11-8; 11-10 July 5 @ Chesapeake Beach Water Park. $12 w/discounts: 410/257-1404 · 1-4 @ Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum. Free: 410/257-3892.
Home of the National Security Agency, military intelligence groups and the First U.S. Army, Fort George G. Meade - which is also a publicly accessible community of 9,000 servicepeople, 25,000 civilian workers and their families - celebrates a militant Fourth.
The Fort George G. Meade Museum both commemorates the base's historic role of providing intelligence support to our nation's military and honors the service and sacrifice of the American soldier. Assigning itself the mission of collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting military artifacts, the museum has filled its halls with American military history.
The military gets even more active for the Fourth of July. Meadefest '98 storms the fort with - among other things - carnival rides, entertainment, a military vehicle/
auto/truck show on the third, and a 5k run/walk on the morning of the Fourth. The festival comes to a close with a musical performance of the U.S. Army's Volunteers quintet followed by the grand finale of brilliant fireworks on the Fourth.
photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
Museum open 11-4 W-Sa @ 4674 Griffin Ave., across from Smallwood Hall: 301/677-6966 x7054 · Meadefest '98 carnival 4-11 July 1, noon-11 July 2, noon-midnite July 4; fireworks 9:30 July 4 @ McGlachlin Field, corner of Mapes Rd. & Cooper Ave.: 800/662-4012.
Visit the village of Galesville and you'll want to live there. First, it's off the beaten track, off a dead-end road flanked by creeks and running into the West River. Second, it's as compact and tidy as Shady Side is sprawling. Third, it's authentic, not gussied up for tourists. Fourth, it's a complete town, mingling homes with marinas, restaurants, a store or two and yacht yards.
What's more, if you want history here, you'll have to ask somebody. There's a historical society but no fast-stop center of culture - though West River Market offers something of that feeling along with good homemade food. So if you want to know about the famous Hartge Yacht Yard or Chesapeake 20s or when the races start, prepare to talk to people.
You have plenty of room to do just that July Fourth, when the town steps out for its annual home-grown procession of bikes, cars, tractors and anything else that can be decorated and moved down the street. Everybody's welcome to show their red, white and blue colors in this march from Anchor's Way and Main Street down to the waterfront. The parade ends with a party on the water with music by the Top Side Jammers to lively things up a little more. The fireworks end the day with a bang, exploding over the waterfront for an energetic finale reflected in the water.
photo at left, courtesy of Roberta Cassard · Galesville Historical Society
Parade at 6 on Main St.; music at 7 and fireworks at 9 @ the waterfront. $4 parking at athletic field w/free shuttle to waterfront: 410/867-4385.
Cross the Bay on your patriotic pilgrimage and you've got another face of Chesapeake heritage: St. Michael's. The facades of the neatly kept and busily visited restaurants, shops and inns along Talbot Street create the deliberate image of a classic American small town, almost a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Nearly every house and shop is clad in wooden shingles or siding, with many others built of brick. As the architecture of the town's scenic streetscape suggests, St. Michael's has a long and rich history.
Incorporated in 1804 after a history dating to the 1640s, St. Michael's is a classic American waterfront town still busy with the coming and going of watermen in their workboats. St. Michael's is also a shipbuilding town, and its craftsmen have at least two benchmarks to their credit: creating the sleek Baltimore Clipper and building the first log canoe. Boats launched from shipyards on the Miles River made major contributions in the American war effort of 1812, sinking over 500 British merchant ships.
St. Michael's heritage includes connections to several prominent American personalities. Abolitionist-editor Frederick Douglass spent much of his slave life in and near the town before escaping to freedom. In happier times, the great American novelist James Michener called St. Michael's home while researching and writing Chesapeake. St. Michael's even has a hometown baseball hero: the Orioles' designated hitter Harold Baines was born and has a home here.
This apple-pie-American hometown has much to offer tourists on a patriotic pilgrimage. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum preserves artifacts of St. Michaels' waterfront heritage and houses a large display of folk art, mainly decoys and boat carvings. Talbot Street, the main thoroughfare, is lined with specialty stores, antique shops, restaurants, historic churches and countless inns for a very consumable hometown experience. St. Mary's Square Museum offers a look at the St. Michael's of yore as well as walking tours through the town's shaded streets.
The quiet small town life is disrupted with a burst of activity over the Fourth of July weekend. On the third, climb aboard the museum's Mister Jim for an interactive history cruise. The Eastern Shore's Francis Scott Key takes to the deck and converses about his life and times as you cruise down Miles River into the sunset. On the big day, big band music takes center stage at the Maritime Museum as the Rhythm Doctors belt out the hits of swing greats such as Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey. Following up is the sparkling grand finale of fireworks over the river, shot off from the Miles River Yacht Club.
Boat cruise 6-8 July 3; music 7-10 July 4 @ Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Cruise $20; concert $6: 410/745-2916 · Walking tours by rsvp @ St. Mary's Square Museum: 410/745-9561 · www.bluecrab.org/st.michaels.
Rose Haven is indeed a haven, though Bay makes its case for a first name more clearly than Rose. What you'll find on one side of the road is a comfortable Bayside suburb, where life is private. But what you'll find on the other is Herrington on the Bay, which is just what it looks like: your haven on the Bay. Hundreds of boaters make their vacation homes here and there's an inn for shorter stays.
In other words, the all-American tradition you'll find here is the waterfront getaway.
The Fourth shows just how appealing that can be. Festivities get swinging with dinghy races at the pool, a beach party, brunch specials and a Scales & Tails display in front of C Dock. The pool closes at 6 and reopens at 7 for the pool party with music by the Kingpins. Eat grilled food and hear the music of Zukato outdoors at the beach party or feast on lobster indoors.
Then the fireworks begin, a pyrotechnic spectacular arranged to music and launched from the west side of the beach, capping off a day of that old American tradition of partying on the Bay.
photo above courtesy of Leigh Woodling
Events kick off w/dinghy races at 8am; beach party 10-whenever; lobster feast 5:30-9:30, rsvp; fireworks at 9:30 @ Herrington on the Bay, Rt. 261. $30.95 for lobster feast: 301/855-8435.
At first glance, this community seems to have no center, with homes sprawling across the many limbs of the wooded peninsula. But that's history in Southern Maryland, where wharves replaced roads.
Shady Side is pretty historic, too. It tracks its lineage as a water-working town back to the earliest Colonial days of Maryland. Many families have called Shady Side home for generations and for many residents, this is the place where they were born and raised. The watermen are no longer as numerous as they once were, but don't tell them that. The old all-summer family hotels are gone, but many summer pleasures are still had here.
In many ways, Shady Side's pastimes have not changed. The simple American pleasures of picnicking in the grass, boating through Bay waters and getting together with neighbors create the social scene. The few public gathering spots are places such as the Moose Lodge and churches, without many bars or eateries to duck into.
Which explains why on the Fourth of July, Shady Siders march down the road in a patriotic celebration of America.
The parade kicks off the day, winding through the town's forested streets. An open parade, it gathers residents in a red, white and blue procession from the Shady Side Post Office to the Captain Salem Avery House and Museum, which is the peninsula's center of culture and houses its Rural Heritage Society.
After the parade arrives, Captain Salem Avery House becomes the center attraction for the day, hosting a down-home baking contest - yes, you can bring your best or you can come to covet, buy and eat; a flag raising by local Boy Scouts, patriotic music by the Bay Winds Concert Band and kids' games.
Come evening, drive up the road - or boat up the Bay - to Galesville for fireworks.
Parade begins at 10 on Shady Side Rd., 410/867-2363; Baking contest at 12:30 w/entries by noon; flag raising, concert and kids' games at 1 @ Captain Salem Avery House, 1418E West Shady Side Road: 301/261-5234.
Make your patriotic pilgrimage to Solomons and find America's small town heritage in yet another flavor.
Founded as a community of watermen, Solomons has a history as a working watertown. In those days, a fleet of workboats set out for the Chesapeake or Patuxent River with tongs and dredges, scraped up plenty of oysters and sold their catch to the buyboats that ran back and forth from oysterhouses. This water-working heritage is preserved at Calvert Marine Museum, with artifacts from the town's booming oystering days, the former cannery and current museum at Lore Oysterhouse and many other seafaring artifacts.
Without the oystering and boat-building community of yore, Solomons is making the transition to tourism. The collection of neat shops, scenic inns, popular restaurants and bars and, recently, the long "Riverwalk" boardwalk make a pleasant present. The many marinas are testament to Solomons' shift from working to pleasure boating.
Near Solomons, on St. Leonard's Creek, is a unique American treasure. Vera's White Sands is a wonderfully eccentric restaurant, gilded with the artifacts brought stateside by world traveler and proprietor Vera Freeman. Lying on what used to be a busy waterway for yachters, the White Sands is now a remote, but worthwhile, boating stop off of the Patuxent north of Solomons. The isolation of the restaurant broadens its appeal, a jewel of eccentric originality in the boonies of tidewater Calvert. Minutes away from Solomons by car, it's a grace note in your celebration of America. Ask the glamorous Vera, as she floats by, how a girl from Montana wound up as princess of the Patuxent.
Solomons' population multiples several times over as throngs of tourists and locals alike gather at Glascock Field for one of Southern Maryland's most popular Fourth of July celebrations. Anchor offshore if you like, but if coming by car know that the island has limited parking and fills up fast. A bus shuttle service ships celebrants to the island and back from the Naval Recreation Center on the southbound side of Rt. 2/4. Finally, the finale of fireworks lights up the sky in a celebration of America, Solomons style.
Fireworks at dusk @ Glascock Field in front of Our Lady Star of the Sea. Free shuttle service: 410/326-2525.
The capital city's patriotic attractions loom large. Washington's countless monuments, memorials, museums and famous sites scream "America," making Washington the ideal destination for a pilgrim happy in crowds.
The Smithsonian museums and the memorials on the National Mall get much of the attention, but other near-by attractions are just as patriotic.
Newly set in stone is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. A seven-acre expanse of carved granite, statues and fountains, the monument commemorates the man who led America through the Great Depression and World War II. Interpretive sculpture, statues, inscribed quotes and a friendly layout invite you in. Set by the Tidal Basin, the memorial has great views of another patriotic tribute: Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
Behind the Capitol, the Library of Congress looms large. In addition to being the world's largest collection of written works, it's the custodian of America's recorded history. Several important and original American documents call the library home, including the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence. Now through August 19, we're allowed to see the historic parchment, taking a peek at Thomas Jefferson's historic words as well as the revisions of Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. Lines are long and form early.
Washington's main events run all day long at the National Mall. The ball gets rolling as the two-hour Fourth of July parade makes its way down the one mile stretch of Constitution Avenue between 7th and 17th streets. Later, at the base of the Washington Monument, blues queen Koko Taylor headlines a concert ranging from Irish fiddling to Hawaiian guitaring. The Smithsonian's Folklife Festival celebrates the world's cultures as well as the nation's, spotlighting Wisconsin's 150th anniversary, Philippine independence, Baltic nations and the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo basin. On the Capitol's west lawn, the National Symphony Orchestra turns out for A Capitol Fourth, playing a patriotic mix of music and climaxing with the "1812 Overture" accompanied by pulsepounding fireworks and U.S. Army mortars.
If your main goal is to see the fireworks, arrive very early to claim the best seat.; the Mall fills up quickly. As always, Metro is the best bet for getting in and out of town.
Koko Taylor concert 4-9:10; Fireworks 9:30 @ National Mall. For info call National Park Service: 202/260-3282 · Declaration of Independence on view 10-5 @ Library of Congress: 202/707-9779 or lcweb.loc.gov · Smithsonian Folklife Festival 11-9 thru July 5; 11-7 July 4 @ National Mall: 202/357-4574 · A Capitol Fourth begins 8 @ Capitol's west lawn: 202/619-7222.
The Maryland Fire Marshall notes another good reason for celebrating your Fourth at one or more of these Chesapeake venues: it's safe and legal. Maryland prohibits unlicensed use of all pyrotechnics except gold labeled sparklers, Snap-N-Pops, Black Cobra Snakes and Party Poppers. Baltimore, Prince George's County and Montgomery County have complete bans. Besides, with all the fireworks and festivities there's plenty of sparkle to go around.
Have a safe, happy and patriotic Fourth.
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VolumeVI Number 26
July 2-8, 1998
New Bay Times
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