Recent news coverage of severe flooding in Louisiana and our neighboring Ellicott City, Maryland stirs memories of Frederick’s most historic flood. A roaring torrent of water destroyed a large portion of the downtown streetscape in 1976, leaving residents to put life back together in the months and years to follow.
After downtown Frederick was drenched with 7.2 inches of rain on October 3, 1976, businesses reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, and community members joined hands to clear destroyed equipment and unsalvageable merchandise from the area. The prospects for recovery surely looked dim at the time, but this unexpected event prompted construction of what today is one of Frederick’s most popular attractions: Carroll Creek Park.
Begun as a flood control project, the park turned out to be the perfect venue for commercial, residential, cultural and recreational development. The 1.3-mile stretch along Carroll Creek features brick walkways, picturesque bridges and several unique public art projects. One such project, the Community Bridge Mural, took ideas from hundreds of people and graphically combined them on a span over the creek. The original concrete structure is now an artfully decorated, ivy-covered stone bridge, with each stone showcasing a different image to reflect the public’s vision. A stroll down the Carroll Creek promenade today lets visitors take in the scenic view over the creek, enjoy fine dining outdoors at superb restaurants like the Wine Kitchen, or spend some time shopping for unique and unusual handmade items. The park is also home to an amphitheater that hosts outdoor movies, live music and other festivals.
But Carroll Creek Park isn’t the only hip and historic spot that has come a long way since the big flood. The Weinberg Center for the Arts, earlier known as the Tivoli and a short walk from Carroll Creek, also saw significant damage from the rising waters. In a bit of serendipity, the downtown theater’s Wurlitzer organ floated to safety and landed unharmed on the stage as the storm went through. The Weinberg subsequently re-opened, after having been restored to its original 1920s elegance. A visit to the Weinberg today might include seeing a comedy act, enjoying musical theater or catching a movie and a beer.
Enjoy the unique experience of strolling through downtown Frederick, which today showcases 50 blocks of shopping, dining and a variety of unique attractions. While many of the businesses operating in Frederick’s hip and historic district have been around for only a few years, the buildings have been lovingly maintained in their early 18th century appearance. A walking tour through downtown gives the glimpse of an earlier time, with one-of-a-kind architecture and loads of historic sites, some of which are rumored to be haunted.