Constructed in 1806, the Historic National Road was the first federally funded highway. The Maryland portion begins in downtown Baltimore and continues on through Baltimore, Carroll, Howard, Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties. The road then continues on through West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.
Today, many know the road as Route 144, Route 40A or Frederick Road. One of Maryland’s first designated National Scenic Byways, it is also designated as an All-American Road. Along the way travelers can still view original mile markers, which were the street signs of the day, and stop to read interpretive markers that tell the story and significance of the national road in that community.
Tiffany Ahalt is the new byway manager of the Maryland National Road. The Maryland National Road Association is a nonprofit organization that preserves and promotes the Maryland portion of the Historic National Road. The Business Monthly sat down with her to ask some pertinent questions about her, her organization and the road itself.
Congratulations on your exciting new job. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was hired last April by the Maryland National Road Association to be the byway manager of the Maryland National Road. I live in Middletown with my husband and two sons at the foot of South Mountain, two miles off the National Road.
I have been involved with Maryland’s tourism industry for the past 20 years as a receptive tour operator and most recently as the tour and marketing director at the Tourism Council of Frederick County. In addition to my position with the MNRA, I operate Star-Spangled Tours and the Candlelight Ghost Tours of Frederick.
My new position enables me to culminate the resources and partnerships of the eight jurisdictions to enhance the visitor experience while traveling the Maryland National Road. In addition, responsibilities often include projects that involve preservation, revitalization and outreach.
You’re headquartered at the Howard County Living Farm Heritage Museum. Tell us about that site’s role with regard to the Maryland National Road.
Yes, the office for the Maryland National Road Association is housed at the Hebb House, also home to the Howard County Living Farm Heritage Museum. Thanks to John and Virginia Frank, the MNRA officially lives at this location, which appropriately is located on the National Road across the street from the Howard County Fairgrounds. The Franks have been instrumental in keeping the awareness of the Maryland National Road at the forefront in many communities.
While we know you can’t pick favorites, can you tell us some of your “can’t miss” historical or recreational attractions?
Being headquartered in Howard County, I have had the opportunity to learn more about all the great things to see and do in the area, including the [Howard County] Fair, events at the [Howard County Living Farm Heritage] Museum, ghost tours, great golf at Turf Valley and the many annual events that take place within the county. Some of my favorites include Ellicott City [Historic District], Wine in the Woods and Clark’s Elioak Farm.
Road trips are all about food. What are the “don’t miss” places on the Maryland National Road?
In the early days, taverns and inns satisfied travelers’ hunger and thirst. In addition, they provided a place of rest for weary travelers and animals. Today, there are many great opportunities to dine along the National Road. From small diners to upscale restaurants, one can eat his or her way from Baltimore City to Garrett County.
Some of my personal favorites include the Lisbon Town Grill, Braddock Inn and the Hen House. There are also seasonal farmers’ markets and unique places to enjoy ice cream such as the South Mountain Creamery in Frederick County.
Marketing the Maryland National Road is a priority for Howard County Tourism & Promotion. Tell us about some of the exciting initiatives that, under your direction and leadership, we can look forward to.
Howard County Tourism & Promotion does a wonderful job to promote the county as a destination. The MNRA values this partnership as they embrace the presence of the National Road. Over the last few months we have taken the MNRA into the world of social media. In October, we will launch a brand new web site, along with a Facebook page. You can follow us on Twitter@marylandnationalroad.
A media plan has been established to include print advertising in AAA Car and Driver and American Road magazines. In addition, a public relations campaign will include regularly scheduled press releases that cover a variety of topics to promote the road. Suggested itineraries for both the leisure and group traveler are being developed and will be available on the new web site.
One of our most important goals is to promote the heritage tourism along the road and support the many small businesses that make up the fabric of this scenic corridor. We can spend multiple dollars to get the visitor here, but it is ultimately the experience the visitor encounters at the museum, restaurant or gas station that can create the opportunity for a repeat visitor.
Plans also are underway to develop a front-line training program for hotels, docents and businesses along the National Road.
For more information on the Maryland National Road Association and the Historic National Road, call Tiffany Ahalt at 410-489-9100 or e-mail Tiffany@marylandnationalroad.org.