Around Havre de Grace
Havre de Grace offers the authentic Chesapeake Bay experience and pleasant way of life on the water's edge.
Enjoy the Bay while fishing, boating, bird watching or strolling our boardwalk promenade along the pristine Susquehanna River. Discover quaint downtown shopping and many historic attractions such as the Concord Point Lighthouse. After enjoying a wonderful meal at MacGregor's retreat to comfort and relaxation in one of our fine inns or day spa.
Important Havre de Grace Links
Short History of Havre de Grace
In 1608, Captain John Smith in discovering what is now Havre de Grace, happened upon the Susquehannock (Iroquois) tribe of Indians. They were described as “a most noble and heroic nation of Indians – large & warlike and for the most part seven feet tall – voices deep and hollow as coming out of a cave – stately and majestic – great warriors.”
In 1782, General Lafayette, a French army officer who played a large part in the American Revolution, while on his way to meet General Washington in Philadelphia, named the city of Havre de Grace. Upon viewing the River and the Bay he exclaimed, “C’est Le Havre!” He was impressed by the town’s resemblance to Le Havre de Grace, France. Havre de Grace, meaning, “Harbor of Mercy” was immediately accepted and the name has designated the city since that day.
Havre de Grace was very nearly named the Capital of the United States. In 1789, when the House of Representatives voted as to the permanent location of the capital, it was a tie between Havre de Grace and Washington. The deciding vote, cast by the Speaker, was for Washington.
During the War of 1812, Havre de Grace was attacked by fifteen barges of British. John O’Neill, a member of the local militia, single-handedly attempted to defend Havre de Grace with cannon and musket fire. Wounded by the recoiled of his cannon, O’Neill was captured and was to be hung by the British Admiral. Matilda, his young daughter, rowed out to the Maidstone to plead with tough old Admiral Cockburn to spare her father’s life. Her request was granted but Havre de Grace was burned to the ground.
In 1839, a very important waterway, the Susquehanna & Tidewater Canal, was opened. The Canal, which stretched from Havre de Grace to Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, was a great service to early settlers in conveying timber, coal, wheat and other products to and from points along the river. The Canal was comprised of twenty-nine locks, serving as stairways or elevators for the canal boats. The lock house Museum, located at the north end of town, will provide greater insight into what life was like during the mid to late 1800’s.
During the intensely cold winter of 1852, railroad tracks were laid across the ice of the Susquehanna from January 15th to February 29th. Entire trains were hauled across with no injury to person or property. The construction of the first railroad bridge across the Susquehanna (pilings still visible adjacent to the Amtrak bridge) was completed in 1866 and stayed in use until 1939.
Conowingo Dam or “Conewago”, meaning “At the rapids” in the language of the Susquehannocks, was put into operation in 1928. Located three miles upriver, it was the greatest development, steam or hydro, ever constructed in one step in the history of the power industry.
The Havre de Grace Racetrack (1919-1952) was considered to be one of the best racing strips of the American turf. The most memorable day in its history was September 29, 1920, when the greatest of all thoroughbreds, Samuel D. Riddle’s, Man O’ War, ran in the Potomac Handicap. “The Graw” was the main training ground for owners who had hopes of winning the Kentucky Derby. The track is now the property of the Maryland National Guard.
Some of the best duck hunting in the world was along the Susquehanna Flats, located at the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay. The sport declined in the late 60’s as duck became less plentiful and strict regulations were placed on the bag limit. Havre de Grace, the self-proclaimed “Decoy Capital of the World” has an outstanding Decoy Museum just four blocks south of MacGregor’s. Take a wonderful stroll along the Promenade at the mouth of the bay to feed the wildlife.