Hie on up to Braddock Heights

Close your eyes. Think about your favorite summer activity. Does your picture-perfect summer day include a trip to the shore? How about a visit to your local amusement park? Perhaps it includes a dip in your community pool, or, heck, maybe even a visit to the bowling alley or roller rink? From the late nineteenth until the middle of the twentieth century, Western Marylander’s could go for a swim in their community pool, spend a day at a small amusement park, or go to a local rolling rink or bowling alley. Or, you know, they could just hop on the trolley, “Hie on up to Braddock” and spend a fun-filled summer day at scenic Braddock Heights, where they could do all that, and more.

Founded in 1896 and situated atop Catoctin Mountain in Frederick County, MD, Braddock Heights was named for its use as a mountain pass by British General Edward Braddock during the Seven Years War. Today a quiet, picturesque unincorporated community, Braddock Heights was once home to a bustling summer resort community that included an amusement park, community pool, scenic overlook, ski resort, and the oldest roller rink in the United States. With all its amenities and attractions, Braddock Heights was a popular day trip and vacation spot for countless Washington County families, who made the trek in trolleys. One of its most popular attractions was its amusement park, which included an observation tower-turned super slide, Ferris wheel, carousel, and mini train. 

One of Braddock Heights most popular attractions was its amusement park, which included an observation tower-turned super slide, carousel, and ferris wheel. Children and adults alike found particular joy in the 40 ft. observation tower, which was built in 1894, but for very different reasons. Built on the peak of high-up Catoctin Mountain, on a clear day, one could look out of the observation tower and see sprawled before them parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia. While the adults took in the gorgeous view, the kids could grab a piece of wax paper and slide down the observation tower’s sliding board, which was a fan-favorite addition to the structure. Another fan-favorite structure at Braddock Heights was its whimsical carousel, where one could listen to the musical stylings of a band organ, and sit atop one of sixty hand-carved horses, elephants, tigers, giraffes, peacocks and lions. Starting in 1949, one could also ride the 12-car ferris wheel! If you weren’t interested in rides, you could always schlep on over to the casino! 

Built in 1909, the Braddock Heights casino building offered fun for the whole family! On the top floor was Stargaze Skateway, a wood-floored roller rink that, until it burnt down in 1998, held the distinction of being the oldest skating rink in the United States! On the bottom floor was a duckpin bowling alley, as well as an arcade with pinball machines and a small movie theater. But that wasn’t all Braddock Heights had to offer…It also had an incredible pool complete with a towering high-dive! 

Today a quiet, picturesque village where no two homes are alike, Braddock Heights was once a noisy, bustling, “in” location for summer fun. With the presence of an amusement park, community pool, scenic overlook, bowling alley, and roller rink, on hot Summer days, Braddock Heights provided variety, and Summer fun for countless Washington County families. In fact, to this day, many Washington Countonians still possess fond memories of days and nights when they and their families would hop on the Hagerstown trolley, and hie on up to Braddock. Have you ever been to Braddock Heights? If so, what is your fondest memory?

Anna C.
Anna C.
Anna Cueto is the Curator of the Washington County Historical Society. She oversees the daily operations and exhibit development of the Miller House Museum, and assists with museum programming and events development and marketing. Anna has a Bachelor's of Arts in History from McDaniel College and a Master's of Library and Information Science in Archives and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh.