- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 15, 2003

BALTIMORE — It doesn’t unfurl or flutter in the wind, but Baltimore’s newest star-spangled banner does impress.

From afar, it’s a solid, 30-by-42-foot glass flag, a replica of the one that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became the national anthem. Up close, it’s the front window of the new Star-Spangled Banner Museum, with a view of the nearby house in which the original flag was made.

“This one has the same broad stripes and bright stars … as the flag Key would have seen,” said Sally Johnston, executive director of the museum. “It’s the realization of a phenomenal dream.”

The glass banner is seen as 28 colored panels, the same size and design as those in the flag Mary Pickersgill sewed during the War of 1812. It even duplicates the positions of the 15 two-foot wide stars and 15 stripes, the design of the flag from 1794 to 1818.

Miss Johnston said the flag idea was born after Baltimore philanthropist Jean Hofmeister donated $1 million to help fund the new museum. Miss Hofmeister asked that the museum contain a replica of the flag Key saw “by the dawn’s early light” flying over Fort McHenry after the Battle of Baltimore in 1814.

Museum officials thought of putting a cloth flag in the window to fulfill Miss Hofmeister’s request, but were worried it would fade quickly and that visitors would confuse it with the original flag, which is being restored at its home at the National Museum of American History in Washington.

Architect Jonathan Fishman of Richter Cronbrooks Gribble Inc., which designed the flag museum, suggested a window that would look like a solid flag from a distance but be translucent up close.

“When you’re inside the museum, you can see through the flag to the tiny 1793 Pickersgill house where the flag was sewn,” Mr. Fishman said. “It ties everything together when you see the garden and the flag and the house all at once.”

Mr. Fishman said each of the flag’s 28 panels weighs about 500 pounds. The window was made and installed by Mero Structures Inc., a German company. A large crane with special suction cups picked up each piece of glass, which was then bolted to stainless-steel plates attached to glass fins suspended from the top of the building, Mr. Fishman said.

“The whole thing is hanging,” Mr. Fishman said. “There’s nothing like this in the world, I’m sure of it. You can read the piece as a flag, but you can also see right through it.”

The juxtaposition of the huge glass replica of the flag and the nearby Pickersgill house is striking. The flag is a little taller and nearly as wide as the house where flag-maker Pickersgill worked.

“This makes it that much more impressive — to see how she was able to do what she did in such a small house,” said the museum’s assistant director, Abbi Wicklein-Bayne.

The glass flag, which was dedicated Thursday, cost about $500,000 and was part of a $4 million expansion project. The new museum has a theater, a gift shop and an educational room in which children can dress up in replica period gowns and military uniforms. Not all the exhibits have been set up, but officials wanted to dedicate the window in time for Flag Day yesterday.

For weeks, as workers carefully assembled the flag, glass block by glass block, people lined up to watch the progress from behind an iron fence near Pickersgill’s house.

“This window is an exhibit in and of itself,” Mrs. Wicklein-Bayne said. “What Key must have felt when the smoke from the battle ended and he saw the flag flying over Fort McHenry — we hope to get some of the same feeling here.”

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