Yes, Hagerstown is an excellent place to go shopping or catch a baseball game, but in this part of Maryland, a town’s past can be as important as its present. Washington County is home to a number of historic sites that tell the history of Hagerstown’s founder or the battles that were fought during the Civil War, for example. Here’s a guide to some of most well-preserved historic sites in Hagerstown and Washington County, Maryland.
1. Antietam National Battlefield
The Antietam National Battlefield is the site of the what’s been determined the deadliest battle ever to occur on U.S. soil, which occurred on September 17, 1862. Today, the battlefield is one of the most pristine Civil War battlefields in the country, and the field remains a sacred place to honor fallen soldiers. Visitors can explore the grounds on self-guided tours or with personal guides to learn the history of the battle that took place that day and the role in played in larger Civil War.
2. Pry House Field Hospital at Antietam
Overlooking the Antietam Battlefield, the Pry House Field Hospital is a 19th-century medical center turned into a museum. In the 19th century, it was not uncommon for military to take over a family home and turn it into a hospital. Residents at the Pry House had to give up their rooms to hospitalize wounded soldiers. Today, tourists can browse through the rooms and view medical supplies that were used during the time period. Staff dressed as Union soldiers occasionally perform mock demonstrations of how the injured soldiers were treated.
3. National War Correspondents’ Memorial Arch at Gathland State Park
The National War Correspondents’ Memorial Arch is one of the few memorials in the country dedicated solely to journalists who have lost their lives while cover wars and global conflicts. It was erected in 1986. The art is on the grounds of Gathland State Park, which has other monuments and mausoleums on the premises.
4. Fort Frederick
Built in 1756, Fort Frederick will celebrate its 260th birthday this year! The fort protected frontier settlers during the French and Indian War. Due to the fort’s large stone walls, roomy barracks and huge space, many farmers built their farms near the fort to feel safe. Fort Frederick also served as a prison for captive British soldiers during the American Revolutionary War. When visiting this historic fort, visitors can join a tour and learn about the fort’s military history. The visitor center houses several exhibits of artifacts used during the wars and offers a 10-minute film summarizing the story of Fort Frederick.
5. Jonathan Hager House in City Park
Dubbed as the “father of Washington County,” Jonathan Hager was a poor German immigrant who prospered in Hagerstown and became a wealthy landowner. Hager invested most of his time and money into building the city of Hagerstown. The Jonathan Hager House is a restored 1740 home-turned-museum with Bavarian touches and spring-fed pools that were used as a water source. Many tools and Civil War memorabilia can be found on display at the house that Hager lived in during the 1740s.
6. Wilson’s Village
Just west of Hagerstown, Wilson’s Village is a unique and well-restored community that’s a near picture-perfect representation of a 19th-century town. Loaded with old-fashioned candy and soda shops, a one-room school, blacksmith’s shop, and an old theater, Wilson’s Village takes visitors on a nostalgic journey.
7. St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Hancock
This long-standing house of worship has stood for 180 years. The St. Thomas Episcopal Church served as a temporary hospital to tend wounded Union soldiers during the Civil War. Those that didn’t survive were buried in the church’s cemetery. The historic church interior features a former slave balcony (now the choir loft), handsome oak furnishings and beautiful stained glass, including a Tiffany window. Tours may be easily arranged by calling 301-678-6569.
8. St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Lappans
The 1849 St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Lappans, has a remarkable graveyard that houses the tombs of slaves. When visiting this church, guests can learn about some of the well-known slaves that attended here, including J.W.C. Pennington, whose owner was a founder. Pennington escaped slavery and became an established abolitionist. The balcony, where slaves were made to sit during services, has been restored with replicas of its original furnishings, as a means to honor those who were required to sit separately from the rest of the congregation.
9. Washington Monument
Located atop South Mountain, the Washington Monument in Washington Monument State Park is named for the first completed monument dedicated to the memory of George Washington. The Washington Monument is a rugged stone tower that was initially erected by the citizens of Boonsboro in 1827. Beautiful views of the Hagerstown Valley can be seen from the top of the monument.