How many clustered spires are in Downtown Frederick?

Posted in: Civil War History, Museums & Historic Sites, Historic Cities & Towns

Frederick Sunrise.jpg

Question: How many clustered spires are there in Downtown Frederick?

Answer: It depends.  Clustered Spire "purists" may say there are 5 spires, comprised of St. Johns the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church (1 spire), Evangelical Lutheran Church (2 - twin spires), Trinity Chapel (1 spire - and the oldest, dating from 1807), and All Saints Episcopal Church (1 spire).  Others include church cupolas into the spire skyline, which brings the spire count to 7 and includes Evangelical Reformed Church's 2 cupolas.  And to complicate things even more, some also include City Hall's cupola, which brings the count to 8. 

So, there are 5-8 Clustered Spires in downtown Frederick, depending on who you ask.

History of the Clustered Spires

During the 1862 Maryland Campaign, Confederate troops marched through Downtown Frederick along West Patrick Street on their way to what would be known as the battles of South Mountain and Antietam.  Legend has it that Frederick native Barbara Fritchie, in her 90's, waved the Union flag out her window as the Confederate soldiers marched through town. The famed John Greenleaf Whitter ballad, Barbara Frietchie, was originally published in the October 1863 issue of Atlantic magazine. The poem recounted how Fritchie was threatened by a Confederate soldier as she waved the flag, and defiantly retorted, "'Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, but spare your country's flag...'" It was this poem that also coined the popular phrase "clustered spires," used to this day to describe Frederick's skyline of church steeples and towers:  "The clustered spires of Frederick stand  / Green-walled by the hills of Maryland."