Mondays in Maryland: Fort Howard

A run in with a stranger from Georgia ends not with ominous banjo music but rather a fortuitous change of scenery.

This post was going to be about Todd’s Inheritance, a small residence on the Chesapeake Bay that proved pivotal to the defense of Baltimore during the War of 1812. It was from here that American troops–and the Todds themselves–kept watch for invading British ships.

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The home is on a slow, rural road just south of Baltimore. I arrived expecting a museum and guided tours. Instead I found two informational plaques and no trespassing signs.

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“What the heck am I going to write about?” I worriedly wondered as I snapped a few pictures. That’s when the stranger from Georgia pulled over and changed the narrative of this story.

He hopped out of his truck, eying my camera. “They used to open the house to the public,” he told me in a thick twang. “And the fort park is closed today, too. But you can still see the old hospital.”

I had no idea what he was talking about. But, feeling brave, I jumped back in the car and continued down North Point Road in the direction he had pointed me.

Before long the road split into a V, one way the shuttered entrance for Fort Howard Park and the other the open entrance for the Veterans’ Medical Center. I went the only way I could.

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North Point–the bit of land on which the VA Center and the park sit–was first colonized in the mid-17th century. It is where American troops engaged the British as the invaders sailed toward Baltimore, in part of the battle that would culminate in Francis Scott Key writing the “Star-spangled Banner.”

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North Point remained a military stronghold after the battle. The first fort was built there in 1848. Fort Howard followed in 1896.

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Fort Howard held strong until 1940, when it was turned over the Veterans Department. During WWII, a large hospital was built for returning soldiers.

The hospital shut down in 2002. When it closed, the small town that had risen around it vacated, too. Now all that remains are the boarded-up remnants of a once-thriving community.

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If You Go
You can visit this ghost town yourself any day of the week. Take 695 to the Edgemere exit and then continue along North Point Road until it deadends at Fort Howard (9500 North Point Road).

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