Maryland: Authentic History in Abundance

By Dixon, Susan H. | American Heritage, October 2003 | Go to article overview

Maryland: Authentic History in Abundance

Dixon, Susan H., American Heritage

Maryland is a masterpiece. Landscape and waterscape, painted by the brush strokes of history, it is rich in detail and contemporary in its appeal to the senses. On display every day, Maryland's tableaux of time are thoughtfully interpreted with an eye for authenticity.

Multidimensional, with unique historic, cultural, natural and recreational perspectives, Maryland is a destination that welcomes travelers to experience the past and the present in depth. An abundance of interactive exhibits, reenactments, festivals, performances, art, architecture and one-of-a-kind landmarks can be found throughout the easily navigated state.

The Old Line State has a new lineup of themed trails, fresh perspectives of history's contributors and recently designated landmarks. Maps available from the Office of Tourism Development and at Maryland Welcome Centers divide the state into five geographic regions--Western, Capital, Central, Southern and Eastern Shore--for convenient navigation and reference.

Thirty-one imaginatively designed Scenic Byways span the state. Clearly marked on roadside signage with sunny black-eyed Susans, the state flower, these tour routes are perfect for leisurely exploration of Maryland's less well-known history, culture and natural splendor. Intriguing "sidetrack" trips are suggested on the route maps as well.

Western Maryland's byways traverse Civil War sites, ancient bogs, hills, valleys, rivers and marshlands. The region's coal heritage and miners' villages can be found along the Catoctin Mountain Route, which also highlights tanneries, sawmills, the nation's first match factory, the Catoctin iron furnace and the making of moonshine.

The Capital Region, convenient to Washington, D.C., offers the history-rich 17-mile Lower Patuxent River Route from Upper Marlboro to Southern Maryland. The Old Main Streets tour threads through the quaint towns and villages of Carroll and Frederick counties, while another byway highlights the contributions of American Red Cross founder Clara Barton.

Twelve scenic routes are marked for in-depth discovery of the Central Region. The shortest covers a 5-mile stretch of Baltimore's National Historic Seaport. The longest explores transportation firsts for 170 miles along the Historic National Road. The Gunpowder and Lower Susquehanna byways suggest side trips for horseback riding, hiking or biking.

The Free State celebrates its heritage of religious tolerance along the Southern Region's Religious Freedom Tour. The route includes the St. Thomas Manor Jesuit residence and the birthplace of Archbishop Leonard Neal. The Calvert Maritime Tour points out side trips to the Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary and Ann-Marie Garden on St. John.

Eastern Shore byways illuminate Underground Railroad sites and the heroic contributions of Maryland-born Harriet Tubman. The grand manor houses of the Chesapeake and views of Eastern Shore farm life are prominent along the Chesapeake Country Tour, while other routes wind through old waterfront villages, Chincoteague Bay and Assateague Island.


Frederick County in the Capital Region offers an ideal central location for sketching out a tour of historic and cultural Maryland. The route of the newest Maryland Civil War Trail, "Gettysburg, Invasion and Retreat," cuts through Frederick County south of the Pennsylvania border. A second trail, "Antietam Campaign, Lee Invades Maryland," traces a route to the well-preserved Antietam battlefield north of Sharpsburg, site of the bloodiest one-day battle in U.S. history.

With its 18th- and 19th-century architecture, Frederick was named one of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Guided walking tours of the Frederick Historic District and Saturday-night candlelight ghost tours provide glimpses of the real and fabled past. The National Museum of Civil War Medicine, Barbara Fritchie House & Museum, Francis Scott Key Monument and the Community Bridge Mural in Frederick are heritage traveler favorites. …

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