Traveling by car through Baltimore, Maryland on the scenic byways is a true sight to behold with antique rows, early morning farmers’ markets, wineries, blacksmith shops, wagon yards, and a host of historic sites and attractions.
The Historic National Road
Hundreds of years ago the easiest ways for new settlers to cross the Appalachian Mountains going west were on the dirt and cobblestone-covered National Road. New settlers drove horse-drawn Conestoga wagons that carried building materials and supplies. Families rode stagecoaches and carriages that stopped frequently along the way to take advantage of the friendly towns on their way to the west.
The National Road was America’s first federally funded highway. The National Road project took four decades of hard labor to complete. The road ran from Baltimore all the way through to Vandalia, Illinois. It began in 1806 to open trade and communication with the growing frontier in the Ohio River Valley.
You can travel Maryland’s portion of the road from Baltimore to Western Maryland. Stop to enjoy the inns, taverns and shops that have survived over time. The Historic National Road passes through three Maryland Heritage Areas which are:
Heart of Civil War (in Frederick)
Canal Place (in Cumberland)
The Baltimore to Cumberland portion of the road is called the Baltimore National Pike. It begins at water’s edge in the Inner Harbor area where you are also close to the Charles Street and national Historic Seaport byways. If you follow Lombard Street west you can stop at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, which is located at the site of the oldest railroad station in the country.
Just west of Baltimore along MD 144 (Frederick Road) you find the National Historic District of Catonsville that was developed in 1810 and later became an attraction for summer homes when linked to downtown Baltimore by electric trolley lines.
Drive through the town of Oella before crossing the Patapsco River. Oella still contains old stone and brick buildings that once housed textile and paper mill workers. Oella was also home to African-American mathematician Benjamin Banneker. He is honored in Oella with a 142-acre historical park and museum. In this vicinity you will also find Patapsco Valley State Park, which is a 14,000 acre, five recreational area. The Avalon Visitor Center is in this vicinity as well.
Just beyond the Patapsco River you will see antiques shops, unique restaurants and historic buildings in Ellicott City. Ellicott City was a former flour milling town that features the first railroad station in the nation and Thomas Isaac’s Log Cabin that served as a National Road way station.
When you reach Mount Airy you will find an array of vineyards that are open for tours and picnics. The area is also known for boutiques and antiques shops. Travelers pass by historic hotels, restaurants and taverns that hosted National Road travelers as you make your way toward Frederick.
When Frederick became connected to Baltimore via the National Pike, it flourished as a commercial center that transported agricultural products toward Baltimore’s port. Sight seeing in Frederick will show you numerous homes and public buildings that represent two centuries of architecture. Don’t forget to visit Francis Scott Key’s law office and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine before traveling onto the Children’s Museum of Rose Hill.
Traveling the scenic roads from Baltimore to Western Maryland is definitely much more enjoyable than the stale and dull ride through major interstate roads.