Historic Fort Ritchie Walking Tour
Finding Inspiration in Every Turn
Fort Ritchie has 50 buildings its Historic District, many of which are nearly 100 years old. The order in which the self guided tour is not important. We recommend beginning at the front of the Post near the Fort Ritchie Community Center or Greenhouse Cafe.
The Finger Buildings at Fort Ritchie were built initially to serve as kitchens for Maryland National Guard Companies. Buildings 306 - 322 were built in 1927 by local masons while buildings 104 - 122 were built in 1932/33 by the Works Progress Administration following the Great Depression. While many visitors believe these were barracks, they never served as such. During World War II they were used as classrooms, and later they served as administration buildings.
Building 102 was built in 1934 as a regimental headquarters building for the Maryland National Guard. A theatre in the basement was used by the Composite School Unit during WWII which included Mock Nazi rallies. It has also served as a library and a service club. A scene of an upcoming television series was filmed inside. Building 102 will soon open as a taproom.
Building 152 was constructed in 1988 and housed the Defense Information Systems Agency for the Western Hemisphere. Due to the nature of its operations, it was designed as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF). This 30,000 square foot building has a small theatre, many office spaces, and an incredible view of the parade grounds. With the exception of some tactical training events by the Maryland State Police, it has been vacant since 1998.
The Castle is far and away the most iconic building at Fort Ritchie. Built in 1927 by the Maryland National Guard, for the purpose of a Post Headquarters. Many people wonder why this building looks like a castle. The Army Corps of Engineers insignia is a Castle, and like many other National Guard Headquarter buildings, this building is no exception. The architecture of The Castle, is completely unique in that it is the only National Guard Headquarters building in the United States to be constructed of green granite. Today, the castle is used by the Ritchie Revival team for meetings.
The Ritchie History Museum and its next door neighbor, The Ritchie Research Center, were both built in 1927 to accommodate the Maryland National Guard's summer training camp as mess halls. The museum building (202) has an interior that is significantly more regal than the research center because its initial design was intended for Officer's while the research (201) was designed for enlisted men. Later both buildings acted as administrative and finance centers with the museum being dedicated the Robert Barrick Memorial Library in 1976 until the Fort's closing in 1998.
Building 305 is the combination of two 1927 finger buildings and an addition created in the center by the US Army in 1942 for the addition of classroom space. In 1944 and 1945 the building was used by Japanese American soldiers known as Nisei. Inside an important discovery was made in a document captured in Japan which discussed the locations of all of the Armories in Japan. There is a WWII era mural inside on plaster walls. Later 305 was used as an arts and crafts building. After receiving a $225,000 grant, Ritchie Revival is turning it into an art collective where local artists can create and sell their crafts.
Building 301 was constructed in 1927 as a Brigadier General Headquarter's but has housed a number of things including a photo lab. The structure has not been occupied for many years and is in need of many repairs. The Ritchie History Museum is working with several groups to raise funding to restore the building to its former glory.
The Fort Ritchie Firehouse was completed in March of 1995 for a cost of $1.6 Million. Ironically, one month earlier, the United States Army announced the closure of Fort Ritchie. The Firehouse supported the local community for three years until being closed down. It has been used as a maintenance and administrative building. Ritchie Revival & Cascade Properties currently operate in the building.
Building 607 was built in 1989 and, like building 152, it too is a SCIF. An incredibly durable building, it now stands proudly as Meritus Primary Care - Cascade. This is the first time public access to healthcare has been available in this region.
The Chapel at Fort Ritchie was constructed in 1942 to accommodate the religious services of the Ritchie Boys. WIth over 70 nationalities of soldiers who trained here from 1942 - 1946, it should be no surprise that the chapel was non-denominational. On any given week, it hosted Catholic, Protestant, Hebrew, Greek Orthodox, and Christian Science services, however most every religion has worshipped in the building at one time. It currently is used for weddings on property and complements Lakeside Hall as a wedding and event venue.
Building 304 was built in 1993 and was one of the last added to the site. It served primarily as an annex building for the Chapel, but in more recent times, it was used by Hagerstown Community College to offer courses to those in the region. It will soon be opening as a salon.
In the distance, you will see two buildings that are quite dilapidated. Building 603 (on the left) was built in 1933 as a cold storage and engineering office. It later housed a bar on the top floor. Soldiers put on KP duty often were stuck down by the lake (not a shabby location for a punishment). Building 601 is a 30,000+ square foot machine shop built in 1935 and used to house large vehicles and equipment. The buildings are in much need of repair. It is the hope of the property owner that the buildings will be used as an indoor event center of sorts.
One of the most beautiful settings at Fort Ritchie. The flag court offers a spectacular view of the mountains, lakes, parade grounds, and Lakeside Hall. The World War II memorial honors the soldiers who trained locally and made the ultimate sacrifice to our nation. The Parade Ground was renamed after Lt. General Emmitt Paige Jr. upon his retirement from the Armed Forces. Paige was heavily involved with the Signal Corps and Army Communications and later served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence during the Clinton Administration.
Lakeside Hall is the crown jewel of Fort Ritchie. Built in 1933 as the Officer's Club, Lakeside has been beautifully preserved inside and out. She offers amazing vistas of Lake Royer and the Blue Ridge Mountains. After Fort Ritchie Closed, Lakeside briefly operated as a restaurant, but now is used as a Wedding and Event venue.
The Fort Ritchie Community Center was built in 1942 and was a functional gymnasium. The building housed Italian Prisoners of War during World War II, and likely German Prisoners of War in 1945 and 1946. The building was rehabilitated in 2008 by PenMar Development Corps and Corporate Office Properties Trust to serve as a community center. The Center offers a number of health initiatives and has generous hours that support community events.
Building 4 was built initially as the home of Robert F. Barrick who was the engineer and architect of Fort Ritchie. He presided here from 1927 until 1946. Following this the building was predominately used for housing high ranking military officials and chaplains. In 2022, the building opened as the Greenhouse Cafe and serves coffee and sandwiches.
Both sets of gates at Fort Ritchie were built in 1932 and are just as iconic as the Castle. Gate 1 is open constantly to the general public while Gate 2 is closed and only opened as needed. At one time both gates had a Fort Ritchie signage above them, however the signage on Gate one was removed to allow large trucks to pass. No one knows what happened to the original overhead signage on gate one, but it likely was given to a high ranking officer when the Post closed.