Founding and Mission
Founded in 1984, The Friends of Fort McHenry is the recognized friends group of Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.
The mission of the Friends of Fort McHenry, in partnership with the National Park Service, is to support the development and implementation of educational programming and living history activities, and the creation of interpretive exhibits and visitor facilities that best engender the widest possible understanding and appreciation of Fort McHenry and the enduring legacy and promise of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, our National Anthem. The Friends achieve this mission through generous support provided by individuals, businesses and foundations who value our heritage and the impact that history can have upon our young people.
Events and Programs
The Fort McHenry Experience, a curriculum-based education program for Baltimore City school students is an example of education programming sponsored by the Friends. This “hands-on” land-sea experience operated jointly by the National Park Service and Living Classrooms Foundation educators immerses the students in the history of the Fort as well as the Fort’s importance in our Nation’s history.
The premiere event held at Fort McHenry is the Star-Spangled Banner Weekend, which commemorates the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and the successful defense of Fort McHenry from British invasion during the War of 1812. The Friends of Fort McHenry, in partnership with the National Park Service, present this exciting annual celebration on the weekend closest to September 14th, the actual anniversary of the bombardment of the Fort. Activities on-site throughout the weekend include a dress parade, flag raisings, cannon demonstrations, and presentations by re-enactors and living history interpreters. This event provides adults and children with the opportunity to learn about life in Baltimore during the War of 1812 and to celebrate the writing of our National Anthem.
In addition to public programming during the Star-Spangled Banner Weekend, the Friends support and organize Young Defenders Day educational activities where children from Baltimore City schools have the unique opportunity to experience 19th century Fort McHenry as it would have been during the Battle for Baltimore. Over 1,000 students participate in the Young Defenders’ Day program each year interacting with over 100 living history interpreters and re-enactors in a recreation of the historic encampment learning what it was like to live and work in the early 19th century.
As part of Saturday’s evening program, the Friends host the Star-Spangled Spectacular for the enjoyment of our sponsors and guests. The Francis Scott Key Award, the highest honor of the Friends, is presented annually at this event to an individual or to an organization that has made outstanding contributions to preserving the legacy of the birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner. Funds donated or sponsorships for this event support the activities of the Star-Spangled Banner Weekend as well as the Friends’ education programs.