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Annelise Montrone, Jeff Jacobson, Dave Gildea, and Chris Bennett at 844 Pratt St on Feb. 29, 2012
There's a prime parcel just blocks from Little Italy and the Inner Harbor (at 844 E Pratt St between President and Albemarle streets) that most of you don't know about. Now that we've got your hopes up, it's not for sale. It's The Star-Spangled Flag House, where the flag that inspired our national anthem was made. Something else museum director Annelise Montone, Solstice Partners' Jeff Jacobson, Smith Gildea & Schmidt's Dave Gildea, and MacKenzie Commercial's Chris Bennett bet you don't know: There's no proof that Betsy Ross made the first American flag. They've got no beef with Betsy, but for them, there's something about Mary Pickersgill, who lived at this site and sewed the Battle of Baltimore's Star-Spangled Banner (now at the Smithsonian), the earliest American flag we have in hand.
844 Pratt St on Feb. 29, 2012
The museum exists to educate folks on Mary, her flag, the War of 1812, and life in the 1800s, on display in Mary's home. We snapped this replica of the flag in her dining room. It had 15 of those two-foot stars, and she and her assistants sewed the 30' x 42' banner in this home—in six weeks. (They assembled the pieces at Clagett?s Brewery at Lombard and Granby streets.) The way Dave describes it, Major George Armistead ordered up a big ol' honkin' flag to hang at Fort McHenry to let the approaching British know just who they were messing with.
Dave (a land-use lawyer who reps Greenberg Gibbons on the Solo Cup site in Owings Mills) will stay on as president of the 30-person Flag House board until the War of 1812 bicentennial celebration ends in 2014. (Francis Scott Key didn't get inspired until September of that year.) Dave tells us the Flag House has a $200k annual budget and is in the black after being listed on the National Register of Historic Places' endangered properties list 12 years ago. It had $600k in debt for this three-story window, a life-size replica of the flag, when Dave became involved seven years ago. This main museum building went up in '03, and the organization has a grant to redo the interior and install a Family of Flagmakers permanent exhibit on Mary (the first anywhere—give this lady some love!), to open next year. The old museum building, which went up in the '50s and is now used for storage, will become an educational center.
Chris Bennett and Jeff Jacobson at 844 Pratt St on Feb. 29, 2012
My, how mankind has evolved. Chris and Jeff tower above the back door of Mary's house. Chris got connected to the Flag House through Business Volunteers Unlimited Maryland, which was matching MacKenzie staffers with non-profits. Dave's neighbor was a former board prez, and Jeff is a client and friend of Dave, who's trying to get younger folks "on board" to make history hip. He tells us the median age is 45, and half of them are women (we think Mary would approve). Next up at the Flag House is an event for all ages, genders, and time-travel zones: History in the Ale House (beer brewing demos, talks, and tastings) on Sunday from 6 to 8pm. More info here.