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Maryland Heritage Areas Authority and Chesapeake Bay Gateways award grants


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Overview | Board Members | Contact Information

About Us

Founding and Mission

Founded in 1984, the Friends of Fort McHenry is the recognized non-profit fundraising organization for Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine. Our mission, in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), 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.


The Friends of Fort McHenry, a program of Living Classrooms Foundation, are the primary advocates for Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine.  Through fundraising initiatives like the one that constructed the state-of-the-art Visitor Center and outreach efforts with local, state, and national leaders, the Friends work to ensure the widest possible appreciation of Fort McHenry’s enduring legacy and the fort’s survival as an “historic shrine” for future generations of Americans.


As the birthplace of our national anthem, a site receiving over 700,000 visitors annually, Fort McHenry’s significance as a national park is well known.  From 2012-2014, the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 attracted more attention and more visitors to the Fort. The Friends focuses their efforts to ensure that all schoolchildren in Baltimore, in Maryland, and across our nation appreciate “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Fort McHenry’s role in its creation and in our nation’s history.

Annual Programs

Youth Employment and Living History

Young Defenders’ National Parks Field Day Program

Defenders' Day Weekend

The premiere event held at Fort McHenry is the Defenders' Day 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.


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.


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