We have some relatives in town and The KingofHearts took a day off to show them around. He decided to spend at least one day at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. I was working and couldn't go with them, so before they left in the morning, I said, "Be sure to take them to Fort McHenry. That's really cool and it would be a good educational experience for the kids. They can go back to school and tell their teachers they saw it when they get to that lesson in history class."
"Great idea," he said.
Someone asked, "What's Fort McHenry?"
For those who didn't sit through that filmstrip about Francis Scott Key at least fifty times in elementary school like I did, Fort McHenry was a key defensive fort on the Chesapeake Bay for many years and was integral during the War of 1812. Key happened to be on a British ship in the Bay, attempting to negotiate the release of some prisoners when Baltimore Harbor was attacked by the British. When the bombing started, diplomatic courtesies were suspended and none of the Americans on the ship was able to return to land. All they could do was watch the attack on Fort McHenry throughout the night with no news about what was happening. (A cell phone or two would have made life a lot easier back then!) The next morning when the smoke cleared, Key was thrilled to find that the giant flag General Armisted had ordered made was still flying, which meant that the Fort was still under American control. Key was inspired to write a poem, which he titled "Defense of Fort McHenry." It was later set to music and popularized as "The Star Spangled Banner." Weirdly though, it didn't officially become our national anthem until 1931. Before 1931, there was no official national anthem. Kinda makes you wonder what they played at the Olympic Medal Ceremonies before then, doesn't it?
Hey, look, 8th grade Social Studies class is good for something after all!
Anyway, it's a really cool star-shaped fort (each of the points being a place where there could be artillery cover for its neighboring points) and there's lots to do. I think my favorite view of it is from above because you can really see the defensive architecture:
The Wonderland brood, minus me and the girls, spent the whole day at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore and when they came home, I asked how it was.
Me: "Did you get to go out to Fort McHenry?"
KoH: "Yeah, but it was boring. There's nothing there."
"Ummmm... there's a fort there."
"I guess, but the only thing at the top is a playground. I don't know why you told us to go."
"Uh, because it's an historical place. There's a museum too. Did you not go inside?"
"There's no museum. There's just a playground."
"You didn't go inside the fort? See the armory? Check out where the soldiers slept?"
"We looked at the cannon, but that was about it. The kids played on the playground while we just looked around at the Science Center and the Aquarium."
"Last time I was there, there wasn't a playground. And... You can't really see those things from Fort McHenry. It's not even in the line of sight. Wait... there's a cannon on Federal Hill, DID YOU JUST TAKE THEM TO FEDERAL HILL AND TELL THEM IT WAS FORT MCHENRY?"
*blink, blink* "Huh?"
Short answer: yes, that is EXACTLY WHAT HE DID.
For those who don't live in the vicinity, Fort McHenry is point A on the map below and Federal Hill is point B, a little over two miles away:
You can't see Fort McHenry from where they were standing without a magical telescope that looks around corners or at least through buildings.
This tickles me to no end because a) we have lived in the area for fifteen years, b) as such, we have spent a great deal of time in Baltimore, the Inner Harbor particularly and c) I am almost 100% certain he has accompanied me to Fort McHenry in the past. (Though he now claims this is not true and he had never been there before. Well, he wasn't there this week, at least.)
The great thing is this has given me a new outlook on company and revolutionizes how I will from now on approach tour-guiding out-of-town visitors when they come to stay and want to see the cities... with only minimal effort on my part: don't take people to the actual place; just tell them they're already there.
See that house across the street from mine? That's the White House.
See that big retaining wall in the park up the street? The Vietnam Memorial.
See that spire on top of the liquor store at the end of the road? Washington Monument.
And now your tour of D.C. and Baltimore is complete. Let's go eat nachos.
Showing people around town just got easier.