HSP HISTORY Blog
Interesting Frederick, Maryland tidbits and musings .
"Motor City Barbara" Fritchie
In last week’s blog, we covered a few novel firsts for Frederick—incandescent street lights and the first traffic stoplight, located at the Square Corner. While putting that piece together, I couldn’t help but think of Frederick’s many other firsts, but more so, I thought of famous inventors, and whether they visited town this fair city or not? While some indeed did, I found that we have special relationships to others which I will explore over the next few weeks. For starters, I looked only a few blocks away (from the Square Corner) to our famed and beloved “95-year-old, girl next door—Barbara Fritchie.
I can hear an echo from the past say: “Drive if you must this old Model T, but spare your family’s horse,” he said. Could this have been uttered in jest by Henry Ford, the legendary industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company? I highly doubt it, but there is certainly a connection between the automobile mastermind and our Frederick Civil War heroine. Mr. Ford was born in the same year (1863)John Greenleaf Whittier wrote the "Ballad of Barbara Frietchie." Just over seventy years later, in the mid 1930's, he would send employees to Frederick to take detailed notes and measurements of the famed Barbara Fritchie House located on West Patrick Street adjacent Carroll Creek.
The Dearborn Inn, located in Dearborn, Michigan, was built in 1931 by Henry Ford to serve passengers arriving and departing from the automobile pioneer’s aptly named Ford Airport. Sitting directly across the street from the aviation hub, Ford’s 179-room Dearborn Inn was the country’s first “airport hotel.” In 1937 the Colonial-themed Inn's accommodations were expanded to include guest cottages— replicas of homes of noted Americans. Designed by architect Charles Hart of the Treadway Inns Company of New York City, meticulous records were gathered at actual historic locations. Five dwellings would be arranged in a village-like setting behind the main hotel. Today, the faux hamlet still contains these buildings, revolutionary statesmen Patrick Henry, writers Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman, Oliver Wolcott, and alas, former Frederick resident and star of John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem –Barbara Fritchie.
The Dearborn Inn and adjacent guest replica homes still exist in their suburban Detroit setting, reflections of Henry Ford's admiration for American history. His ideal expanded to include the reconstruction and acquisition of several other important “heritage” buildings to form nearby Greenfield Village, part of the larger Henry Ford Museum— touted as the largest indoor-outdoor collection of our nation’s history.
Today, the Dearborn Inn, with its “colonial village,” is listed on both state and national historic home registers, while being managed by the Marriott Corporation. Located in close proximity to the Henry Ford Museum, the Inn not only offers a more traditional hotel experience, but for $200+/night, one can still stay in the Barbara Fritchie house.
Hotel guests and other visitors to this unique Michigan attraction have the chance to learn the romantic tale of Ms. Fritchie and her dramatic defiance of September 1862. The hotel’s brochure offers a short biography and picture of Dame Fritchie, while guests have the opportunity for further exploration through reading the 30-stanza poem written by legendary New England poet, and abolitionist, John Greenleaf Whittier. This is quite helpful because to most of Dearborn’s tourists, particularly younger generations, Barbara Fritchie is certainly not a known quantity. But then again, how many of us can rattle off the many-splendored accomplishments of Oliver Wolcott?—You know, the 19th governor of Connecticut, and Signer of the Declaration of independence? If nothing else, he had a son named Frederick, and was a signer of the Articles of Confederation, a connection to another local hero named John Hanson.
“Up From the Meadows rich with cars.”
Since Mr. Ford embraced Frederick in Dearborn, it’s safe to say that we paid homage back to our country’s most famous automobile inventor. This came in the form of the Barbara Fritchie Tourist Cabins, once located at 230 West Patrick Street.
Formerly known as The Tourists Park, a rustic campground established by the Maryland State Roads Commission to aid vehicular-based travelers, ground was broken in 1933 for a more sophisticated (relatively speaking) gas station and cabin compound—the creation of George S. Crawford of McKeesport, PA. Crawford’s brother-in-law, Charles A. Faust, actually managed the enclave of 26 bungalows which featured accommodations ranging from “DeLuxe, Twin, and Singles.” These were “Steam Heated” and boasted “Private Showers.” And if that’s not enough to entice the weary tourist, the site came with 24-hour service, and nightly lodging that costs from $1.50-$5.00. The Fritchie Cabin operation would last for half a century. It was sold at auction in 1987, “making way” for the mental health facility known as the Way Station, Inc.
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