Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

Old visitor center at Fort McHenry demolished to make way for new one

January 24, 2011, 10:07 am

Outdated building gives way to new center that will accommodate more visitors to the national historic site

This bombardment was led by one man — a crane operator who ripped into the brick building at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine at dawn's early light.

"He's doing what the British couldn't do," park ranger Scott Sheads said jokingly about the contractor hired to demolish the structure at the fort, which defended Baltimore's harbor against the invaders during the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the poem that would become the national anthem.

The 5,200-square-foot structure was the 1960s-era visitors center, demolished to make way for one three times its size due to fully open in March.

The old center was outdated within a few years of being constructed on the Locust Point peninsula and is now overwhelmed by the 650,000 people who visit annually. Sheads was ready for bombs bursting in air, but acknowledged the Locust Lane Farms crane operator was handling the job with precision, reducing much of the building to a pile of metal and brick in about an hour.

The new visitor center is open with limited services including an information desk, offices, restrooms and gift shop. The new exhibits and video will open in March 2011. The parking lot is open to both cars and buses.

The grand opening of the new visitor center will take place Thursday, March 3, 2011, at 6 p.m. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will showcase new exhibits and video. The program will feature the Ravens Pep Band, Charm City Cakes, elected officials and fireworks! The event is free and tickets are not needed.