Havre de Grace is located on the
Susquehanna River at the point where the Susquehanna River and the tidal
flow of the Chesapeake Bay meet. The river is probably the reason for the
early existence of the town. Havre de Grace has a connection with the
Revolutionary War, reflected in the names of streets today. There is a
Washington Street, Lafayette Street, Congress Avenue, Revolution Street, Union Avenue and Adams Street.
In 1776 there were only 12,765 persons
living in the entire county of Harford County. Havre de Grace, a village of
only a few houses in Harford County, was burned by the British in 1777.
Havre de Grace was again on the map in the Revolutionary War when in
September of 1781 Revolutionary War troops camped in Havre de Grace in
route to Yorktown and then once again after Cornwallis' surrender.
In 1799, the year Washington died, Havre
de Grace was considered to become the capitol of the United States. A
detailed map and survey of the area was drawn, but Havre de Grace lost to
Washington D.C. by one vote. The White House might have been in Havre de
“Washington slept here”
stories are told in Havre de Grace and perhaps he did. He would have
traveled the Old Post Road. It is known that Washington slept across the
river in Perryville. The accepted story of the naming of Havre de Grace is
that during the Revolution when the French General Lafayette saw the town
he exclaimed, “C'est Le Harve
de Grace.” His remark was found in his journal and it was also used
in a survey map. The town reminded him of the French seaport, Le Havre.
Incorporated in 1785, the name Havre de Grace means “Harbor of
Havre de Grace was involved in a war
again during the War of 1812. The British burned and plundered the town on
the 3rd of May 1813.
The Concord Point Lighthouse in Havre de
Grace was built in 1827. It is the oldest continuously operated lighthouse
in the state of Maryland. It is located the northernmost point of the
Chesapeake Bay where the Susquehanna River meets the tidal flow of the bay.
Hazardous conditions made the lighthouse necessary at that location.
Because of the location of Havre de
Grace, it was a center
of early activity. The canal system, important to early industry, ended at
Havre de Grace. The Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal provided an alternative
to the horse drawn wagon for moving freight. They hauled coal, lumber,
grain and iron products. The forty-five mile canal was most active around
1870 and ran to Wrightsville, Pennsylvania. Mule-drawn canal boats were
raised a total of 233 feet in a system of 28 lift locks.
Another important development in
transportation in the early years was the Baltimore and Port Deposit
Railroad. It was completed as far as Havre de Grace in 1826. It became the
Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad and is not AMTRAK. AMTRAK
stops in nearby Perryville today.
An interesting river story is that in
1852, the Susquehanna River froze so hard that railroad tracks were run
across the ice at Havre de Grace. At the time of the Civil War in 1865, the
construction of the first railroad bridge across the Susquehanna River was
Harford County Maryland Historical Society