A couple of days after penning what would become our National Anthem, (the first printing in the Baltimore American titled his song, “Defence of Fort M’Henry” and did not include a by-line), Francis Scott Key took the mail coach to Frederick. In his biography, Weybright notes the sleep-deprived poet and patriot then hurried over to the brick house where Taney and his wife lived.
In 1856, Taney recalled the visit:
“He then told me that under the excitement of the time, he had written a song, and handed me a printed copy of the Star-Spangled.”
I assumed the house Key went to that afternoon was the Taney house located at 121 S. Bentz Street, and now the Taney Museum. A research assistant at the Frederick County Historical Society in Frederick informed me my assumption is wrong. She said the Taney House on Bentz was his rental. In 1815, they lived on N. Market Street. Research has not been able to pinpoint exactly where they lived, but they believe it was on the east side of N. Market between Patrick and Church. Currently the restaurant Cacique is located there (Taney house torn down).
One source I read said that house was on S. Market. The docent explained the city changed the North-South street designator.
I drove up to Frederick yesterday for a second visit. I started with a fuel-up at Frederick Coffee and Company, who pleased this visior with some excellent Kenya Bold and a pert near fair BLT on Rye. Chatted up one of the locals who was relaxing in one of the comfy chairs. He said new ownership made the place right after years of neglect.
Next stop was downtown to pay a visit to the Frederick County Historical Society. Looking through the vertical files, one thing that caught my eye was documentation on an attempt to get Key inducted into the Hall of Fame for Great Americans (New York University). This was around 1965.
Looking on-line, I see where this Hall was the first Hall of Fame in the United States. Founded in 1900, they have inducted over 100 Americans, whose busts are on display in the Bronx. No elections have been held since 1976. Key was not selected.
Walking upstairs to the museum, I spotted an oil painting, a portrait of Key hanging in the east side room. The placard said the artist was William Grinage.
Turns out there’s quite a story behind this particular portrait of Key. Nancy Hernandez of the Frederick-News Post wrote a piece about Grinage in 2006. An African-American who lived in the city (1866-1925), he was commissioned in 1924 by the Kiwanis Club. A self-taught artist, he finished the painting in 1925. Sadly, Grinage passed away a few days after.
The painting could be seen at the Francis Scott Key Hotel, just a few blocks away from the Historical Society. The tour guide told me of the sad irony. The hotel was segregated so, Grinage could not go inside to see his work.
According to this brochure, the house Grinage lived in is still standing at 22 W. All Saints Street.
I then proceeded to the Taney House (closed until April 1) to get a photo. A commemorative marker is on the house, but none at the site of where the Taney’s lived.
Two more stops to go. A few blocks to the east lies McCutcheon’s Apple Company and Store. After purchasing a jar of their famous Apple Butter, I walked to the back of the plant and their west wall to see “The Pillars of Frederick.” Frederick artist Yemi painted the mural, which contains 40 portraits of deceased citizens from the area who distinguished themselves. See it sooner than later, the mural will be removed after five years.
I then made the short drive to Mt Olivet Cemetery where Key is buried. My visit before focused on his grave site and memorial. In one of the books I read, it said some of Key’s personal items were located at the Taney House. But they told me to check with the Francis Scott Key Foundation, who might best be found at the Key Memorial Chapel at the cemetery. No luck so I need to follow up with them. By the way, if anyone knows how to get a hold of them, please drop me a note.
With Frederick completed, we are now down to visiting Terra Rubra and his two homes in D.C.