Havre de Grace War of 1812 Grant Project
Havre de Grace, a scenic, quaint town situated where the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay, was attacked by the British during the War of 1812. As the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 approached, the state of Maryland mounted a three-year commemoration aimed at attracting millions of tourists. Recognizing the importance of this promotional opportunity to bring visitors to Havre de Grace, a planning committee, consisting of the six museums in town along with other interested parties, partnered with the Visitor’s Center and the city government to obtain two grants totaling $365,000: one from the National Park Service and one from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority.
Havre de Grace's planning committee hired me as the project manager to implement their plans, which included community history research, exhibits, wayside signage, educational materials, an interpretive plan, and a scale model of 1813 Havre de Grace
My role was to manage the budget and the timeline of the project to ensure we completed everything to the grants' standards and in time for the anniversary date of May 3, 2013. I hired two freelance historians to assist with research as we began to assemble the facts of Rear Admiral George Cockburn's 1813 attack. Besides assisting the project committee, the historians also worked with citizens on a community history research project, which included genealogy as well as historic home research, in order to determine which buildings may have witnessed the attack.
I led the development of the wayside signage that was installed throughout town. I wrote the text and worked with a graphic designer on the custom artwork and layout. We also had to ensure that the signage complied with National Park Service regulations, and I managed the approval process with that agency. The museums themselves chose the themes, selected the images, and wrote the text for their own exhibit panels, which were displayed within their respective museums; however, I worked closely with each to ensure the branding of their panels matched the rest of the materials, and that a cohesive story was being told.
The Visitor's Center was the jumping-off point for visitors exploring the town, and therefore, the scale model of 1813 Havre de Grace created by volunteers for this project lived there. It showed an accurate representation of the town on the day of the attack, based on research done by the historians. We recorded an audio track and synced it with lighting to tell the story of the British attack via the model. Several exhibit panels were also installed in the Visitor's Center, and we created brochures to guide guests to the museums and wayside signs. We also installed signage and maps at the town's two main gateways.
Project Manager: Heidi Glatfelter Schlag
Planning Committee: Representatives from the Havre de Grace Tourism Advisory Board, Economic Development Advisory Board, Historic Preservation Committee, Arts Commission, Lock House Museum, Friends of the Concord Point Lighthouse, Decoy Museum, Maritime Museum, Fourth of July Committee, Havre de Grace Main Street Inc., Skipjack Martha Lewis, Steppingstone Museum, Havre de Grace Library, Harford County Office of Tourism, Havre de Grace Chamber of Commerce, city staff, the American Legion, and the VFW
Historians: Mike Dixon, Christopher George
Graphic Design: Elementary Design by Watson
Tourism Manager: Brigitte Peters
Funders: National Park Service, Maryland Heritage Areas Authority
The project finished on time and on budget, and we celebrated with a launch party on January 31, 2013. The community, as well as state officials, enjoyed an evening in Havre de Grace witnessing the scale model's ribbon cutting and exploring the exhibits at each museum.
In May, 2013, the city hosted "An Attack on Havre de Grace," a three-day event that featured tall ships, war re-enactments, a Red Coat Run, and other activities. This event was not funded by the original grants, but was a natural outgrowth of the synergy that developed among the partners who worked on the grant. This event was attended by 26,000 people and was awarded the "Best Large Event" by the Maryland Tourism Council in 2013. Other events, including a "Community History Day" and a lecture series were also held over the next year.
Although no data about the economic impact of the Havre de Grace project was ever compiled, we know that the city benefitted from its association with the statewide War of 1812 effort. During the three-year commemoration between 2012-2014, the War of 1812 Bicentennial pumped $333 million into Maryland's economy.
Due to my involvement with this project, The History Press approached me to write a book about the attack, which was published in 2013: Havre de Grace in the War of 1812: Fire on the Chesapeake. In 2015, I was honored to receive a Special Preservation Award from the Harford County Historic Preservation Commission for my work on both the book and the project.