New Visitors Center For National Anthem’s Birthplace

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Thursday marks the 80th anniversary of the “Star-Spangled Banner” being officially named our national anthem.

Jessica Kartalija reports from Fort McHenry for the unveiling of the new visitors center.

History is made again at Fort McHenry, as the historic site is commemorated with a brand new building. The new center is set to open just in time for the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

The grand opening event is Thursday at 6 p.m. Visitors can check out the new center, and watch a fireworks show.

“I’m really excited about it,” said Colter Diehl. “I think it looks awesome.”

“Now we have a visitors center that really explains it,” said Vince Vaise, National Park Service. “For the first time, people can really understand what happened here.”

“It’s very meaningful to stand in a place with so much history,” said Jordana Diehl.

The old center built in 1964 accommodated 250,000 visitors per year, but it was soon overwhelmed. The new $15 million, 17,000-square-foot center will welcome the more than 600,000 people who now visit annually.

A new exhibit area is more than three times larger the former space and includes three galleries where visitors can learn about the causes of the War of 1812 and the moment when Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the national anthem during the Battle of Baltimore.

There are interactive displays and also an IMAX movie.

“You hear the bombs bursting in air, and you see the rockets red glare,” said Vaise. “It’s 10 minutes of pure awesome.”

So if you can’t remember the words, not to worry, you’ve come to the right place.  The new site has an original copy of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

The new center is a green building, with recycled bricks and a geothermal heat system.

(Copyright 2011, The Associated Press contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved.)

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