Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine


Fort McHenry, in Baltimore, Maryland, is a star shaped fort best known for its role in the War of 1812 when it successfully defended Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British navy in the Chesapeake Bay. It was during this bombardment of the fort that Francis Scott Key was inspired to write "The Star-Spangled Banner", the poem that would eventually be set to the tune of the The Anacreontic Song, to become the national anthem of the United States.

Designed by Frenchman Jean Foncin in 1798 and named after James McHenry, a Scots-Irish immigrant and surgeon-soldier who became Secretary of War under President Washington, Fort McHenry was built after America won its independence to defend the important Port of Baltimore from future enemy attacks. It was positioned on the Locust Point peninsula which juts into the opening of Baltimore Harbor, and was constructed in the form of a five-pointed star surrounded by a dry moat -- a deep, broad trench. The moat would serve as a shelter from which musketmen might defend the fort from a land attack. In case of such an attack on this first line of defense, each point, or bastion, was fortified, so that the invading army would be caught in a crossfire of cannon and musket fire.


Seasonality / Weather

Regular Hours:
* Park: 8 am to 5 pm
* Star Fort: 8 am to 4:45 pm
* Visitor Center: 8 am to 4:45 pm
* Last Video Presentation: 4 pm

Closed: Thanksgiving Day, December 25 and January 1.



The park is three miles southeast of the Baltimore Inner Harbor and just off I-95. Follow blue/green Fort McHenry directional signs along all major routes to the park. From I-95 northbound or southbound, take Exit 55 Key Highway and follow Fort McHenry signs on Key Highway to Lawrence Street. Turn left on Lawrence Street and then left on Fort Avenue. Proceed one mile to the park.

From the Inner Harbor, take Light Street south to Key Highway. Turn left and follow the Fort McHenry signs to Lawrence Street. Turn right on Lawrence Street and then left on Fort Avenue to the park.


The park is located within ten miles of BWI Airport.

Public Transport: 

MTA buses stop at the park's front gate.