horizontal banner with Preserve America logo and images of a historic downtown, farm, courthouse, and mountain

Preserve America is a national initiative in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

Preserve America Community Close-ups: Frederick, Maryland

For more than two and a half centuries, Frederick, Maryland, (population 57,907) has been situated at the crossroads of American history. At the intersection of two National Scenic Byways–the Historic National Road and the Catoctin Mountain National Scenic Byway, also known as part of “The Journey Through Hallowed Ground”–Frederick’s outstanding historic resources tell many stories about the American experience. Nearby Catoctin Mountain in Frederick County is also home to the Presidential retreat at Camp David.    


Established in 1745, Frederick evolved from a small frontier settlement to the third largest city in Maryland. One early resource is Schifferstadt, a 1756 farmhouse considered to be the finest remaining example of German Colonial architecture in the United States. Businesses later developed to serve pioneers headed west on the National Road, the nation’s first “interstate highway” begun in 1811.  

During the Civil War, both Confederate and Union troops passed through the city on their way to Sharpsburg (Antietam) in 1862, and parts of the Union Army followed this route north into Pennsylvania to Gettysburg in 1863. Twenty-eight sites in the city were taken over as hospitals after the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, and numerous private homes were used for wounded officers. A period building today houses the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.  


In 2006, Frederick saw the revival of a traditional history event, “Bell and History Days,” which had occurred from 1968 until the early 1990s. The event celebrates the history of Frederick and a period when Frederick would have bells ringing throughout the city for many occasions. The event is sponsored by the Tourism Council of Frederick County and opens the museum season each spring, with participation from all the historic sites and museums. The event begins with a ceremonial ringing of all the bells in the city for three minutes. The weekend includes many heritage events, including historic site tours, trolley service, additional museum programs, and activities at the Baker Park Carillon. The success of the first event has allowed “Bell and History Days” to become a permanent, annual event in Frederick.  


Tourism plays a major role in the economy in Frederick. In 2005, more than 1.9 million visitors spent more than $280 million while visiting Frederick County. Almost three-quarters of visitors to Frederick County visit the 40-block downtown Frederick historic district, reaching almost 1.4 million tourists each year. More than 6,500 jobs are related to the tourism industry. Frederick is also the home to other industries, such as bioscience, technology, and manufacturing, and the site of a major defense installation at Fort Detrick. 

The Tourism Council of Frederick County promotes the historic resources of Frederick as a major draw for the community. The tourism council operates a visitor’s center located in historic downtown Frederick. The city of Frederick is included in many state and regional heritage tourism associations, most of which are administered by the tourism council.  

The tourism council established the Frederick Historic Sites Consortium in 1991. The sites consortium promotes local historic sites and museums through educational programming and marketing efforts. The Museums by Candlelight program, held during the holiday season, allows free admission to many of the sites within the consortium. The Master Docent Series is a workshop series that offers training and recruitment for docents. The docent recruitment fair is open to the public, giving local historic sites the opportunity to gain new volunteers for their organizations. 

Frederick received a Preserve America Grant in 2007 for the “Frederick Visitor Center Exhibit and Heritage Trail.” The grant will assist with the design of heritage trail markers to be placed from the visitor’s center throughout downtown Frederick. Each marker will include facts, quotes, and images from local history on artist-designed trail markers. Additionally, the grant provides for exhibits in the Frederick Visitor’s Center, focusing on the interpretation of local cultural and heritage assets. By providing both of these resources, visitors to Frederick will be better educated about the history and structures surrounding them. 


The Frederick Town Historic District was first established in 1952, making it one of the oldest in the nation. The Historic Preservation Commission is charged with evaluating exterior changes to properties within the district. In 2005, its duties expanded to include the ability to recommend the designation of Historic District Overlays to the mayor. Historic preservation is also a part of the Frederick Comprehensive Planning Plan, promoting the identification, documentation, designation, and protection of historic resources. Additionally, archaeological site review is covered by the city’s historic preservation plans. The Historic Preservation Commission in Frederick is staffed by two historic preservation planners. Frederick features two historic districts and 27 individual listings on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The Historical Society of Frederick County aims to increase awareness and appreciation of the history of Frederick County. Founded in 1892 and officially incorporated in 1911, the early history of the historical society focused around lectures and collecting books, papers, and artifacts. The historical society features the Museum of Frederick County, housed in the former Loats Female Orphan Asylum, built in 1820, located in historic downtown Frederick. The historical society also presents the Roger Brooke Taney House, which interprets the life of Taney, the fifth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The historical society operates the Frederick County Archives and Research Center, which houses a variety of historical materials, including letters, maps, family histories, photographs, and books. The American Association of Museums accredited the historical society in 2003.   

The Frederick County Landmarks Foundation (FCLF) is an all-volunteer historic preservation organization that assists with the preservation of historic structures. The FCLF Plaque Program recognizes historic properties with historic or architectural merit. In order to be eligible for the program, a building must be more than 100 years old and must maintain architectural integrity. More than 300 sites have received plaques. All the sites are added to a database that documents information about the structure and current photos.  

For more information

City of Frederick: www.cityoffrederick.com

Tourism Council of Frederick County: www.fredericktourism.org

Frederick Historic Sites Consortium: www.frederickhsc.org

Historical Society of Frederick County: www.hsfcinfo.org

Frederick County Landmarks Foundation: www.frederickcountylandmarksfoundation.org

Posted November 25, 2009