Hagerstown is just eight miles from the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, near the midpoint of the 184.5 mile-long waterway. That location makes Hagerstown an ideal base for canal enthusiasts to gather.
In 2018 National Geographic Traveler magazine named the city of Hagerstown one of the 30 best small cities in the United States. One of the reasons cited was its proximity to the C&O Canal.
This community of 50,000 boasts a rich history. Hagerstown was founded in 1762 by German immigrant Jonathan Hager. He originally named the town Elizabethtowne for his wife, but after his death the name was changed to Hagerstown in honor of the founder. Hager’s original house, build over a spring, still exists in the town’s City Park and, in normal conditions, is open for tours.
The town has been a center of transit and commerce. Two hundred years ago the town sat astride the north-south Cumberland Valley Turnpike and the east-west Baltimore National Pike, the latter connecting with the National Road—the nation’s first federal highway—at Cumberland, Maryland. With the arrival of railroads in the mid-nineteenth century, in time Hagerstown earned the nickname Hub City because the railroad lines that ran into and out of the town resembled the spokes of a wheel. A turnpike and a trolley line also once connected Hagerstown to Williamsport, giving businesses and travelers access to the Potomac River and C&O Canal at the latter town. Today Interstates 81 and 70 straddle the town while trains still rumble through.
Hagerstown is the seat of Washington County. Located in the crossroads of the Civil War, the county is home to Antietam National Battlefield and South Mountain State Battlefield. During the Confederate retreat from battlefield at Gettysburg, the Union and Confederates armies clashed in town on July 6, 1863 at the aptly named Battle of Hagerstown.
Washington County also has a rich cultural scene. Maryland Theatre and Performing Arts Complex will host the conference. The original theater was built in 1915 and anchors Hagerstown’s Arts and Entertainment District. The theater recently underwent an expansion and offers year-round performances, including Maryland Symphony Orchestra concerts. The district also hosts the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, the Washington County Arts Council and numerous restaurants and shops. The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, also located in scenic City Park, boasts an outstanding permanent collection with an active schedule of exhibitions, concerts, lectures, films, and special events for all ages.
Outdoor recreation is a major reason people love to come to Washington County. The majority of Maryland’s Appalachian Trail is in the county, running north-south, and serves as the eastern border of the country. Fort Frederick State Park, featuring a restored French and Indian War stone fort, is located in the western portion of the county along its southern border and adjacent to the C&O Canal and the Potomac River. More than 78 miles of the canal’s 184.5 are located in Washington County. In 1971 the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park was created to preserve and interpret this historical treasure. People come to the canal for a variety of reasons: to hike, bike, ride horses, to observe wildlife and enjoy nature and to learn about the region’s transportation history.