ED WATERS Jr.
The Frederick News-Post
FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Did Barbara Hauer Fritchie really hang a U.S. flag from the window of her West Patrick Street house in defiance of passing Confederate troops?
That’s a controversial issue.
John Greenleaf Whittier’s famous 1864 poem, “Barbara Frietchie,” memorized by many, may be either artistic license or based on fact.
“There is more evidence that other women waved flags,” said Margaret Mitchell Kline, whose family has owned the house at 154 W. Patrick St. for more than 30 years.
Confederate soldiers might have shot the flag staff at the Fritchie house, Kline said, but whether Barbara was at the window telling them to “shoot if you must this old gray head, but spare your country’s flag,” might be Whittier’s embellishment.
Fritchie was 95 in September 1862, when Whittier places her at her window with the flag. She died in December of that year.
“She was an early feminist,” Kline said, referring to Fritchie’s example of a woman taking such a stand.
The Kline family is unable to bear the financial, administrative and maintenance burden of the Fritchie property, Kline said. Improvements are needed to bring the property to historic and maintenance standards. Because it is privately owned, no public funds are available.
A group of people who are concerned about the future of the structure and want to keep the Fritchie aspect of Frederick’s history alive have formed the Barbara Hauer Fritchie Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, to open the doors to public support.
“We can fix it up, hope to be open not just on weekends,” said Kline, interviewed at a dining table used by Fritchie and her husband, John Casper Fritchie, a glove maker.
The house is a replica, built on the site of the original house, which was torn down in the late 1800s and then rebuilt in 1926 using documents and photos of the original house.
“A lot of care has been taken, but it needs preservation,” Kline said.
Kline has been an integral part of Frederick Community Commons, a nonprofit launched in 1979 dedicated to environmental activism. She said the future of the Fritchie Museum should include looking at green ways to provide heating and cooling without disruption of the historic architecture. The house is filled with furniture, textiles and other items that belonged to the Fritchies.
The house, next to Carroll Creek Linear Park, is part of the Civil War Trail through Frederick. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill recited Whittier’s poem from memory on a visit, and Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower are among the distinguished visitors to the site.
Members of the newly formed foundation are Kline; attorneys John Sica and Laura A. Melia; state Sen. Ron Young; Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former lieutenant governor of Maryland; Margaret Hindman, writer and editor; Teresa Mathias Michel, historian and civic activist; and Anne Slater, retired English professor and acting president of the foundation.
If You Go …
The Fritchie House and Museum, 154 W. Patrick St. Hours are noon to 4 p .m. Saturdays and Sundays, Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)