Stroll north from the Square Corner, the intersection of Market and Patrick Streets in downtown Frederick, Maryland, and a freestanding mansion will appear mid-block, like a bolt from the blue.
Or should I say, a Volt from the blue?
Visitors stop in their tracks when they realize this brick-and-brownstone Victorian is the restaurant they’ve heard so much about, the one that put Frederick on the map. (Some get another shock when they read the price of the chef’s tasting menu: $125, plus a $75 beverage flight.)
It’s been nine years since Frederick’s own Bryan Voltaggio launched Volt with partner Hilda Staples, losing to his brother Michael on “Top Chef” the following year. The historic community — where Francis Scott Key practiced law before moving to Georgetown — has been drawing new residents from the D.C. area for decades, but the overnight success of Volt set off a boom in upscale restaurants and shops.
On your way to Volt, you’ll pass Perfect Truffle, the Tasting Room, Zoe’s Chocolate, the Pasta Palette, Brewer’s Alley, Cakes to Die For and Lebherz Oil & Vinegar Emporium. Small-town businesses — barbershops, shoe repair places, tobacco shops, tattoo parlors and quirky boutiques — are also mixed in on Market and Patrick, the two main drags.
Some shops are tucked away on side streets. On East Second Street, you’ll find Good Juju Juice Bar, Nanny Goat Crafts and Crisafulli’s Cheese Shop, where Sharon Crisafulli’s sole allotted wheel of Graskaas cheese, made with the first milk from cows fed on early spring fodder in Holland, is nearly gone. (Only 1,000 wheels of the creamy stuff are exported annually.)
Farther down East Second, the three-acre campus of Visitation Academy, established in 1846 by Visitation Sisters from Georgetown, was recently sold to an Annapolis developer for $2.75 million. The private Catholic elementary and middle school for girls closed in 2016.
In the townier (as opposed to tonier) blocks of North Market past Fourth Street are several art galleries and studios. East Patrick Street seems to specialize in home décor and antiques; Emporium Antiques is a warehouse warren of 100 dealers. On West Patrick are the Weinberg Center for the Arts, a restored silent-movie palace originally known as the Tivoli, and Le Parc Bistro, a new French restaurant.
Heading south from the Square Corner, you will cross over the mile-long Carroll Creek Park. Begun as a flood-control project, the landscaped linear park, with multiple bridges over the lily-filled creek, is Frederick’s answer to San Antonio’s River Walk. Several shops and restaurants, including Wine Kitchen on the Creek, face the park.
If you stay on South Market, look for Wag’s, a basement happy-hour hangout; the spic-and-span Potters’ Guild of Frederick Gallery, also below sidewalk level; and sleek Black Hog BBQ.
At the edge of the historic district, along East Street, are the Frederick Visitor Center; a complex of shops called Everedy Square & Shab Row; and the Roads and Rails Museum, which houses one of the largest miniature-world (zoo, circus, volcano, coal mine, castle, etc.) model-train displays anywhere.
In terms of historic architecture, Frederick is right up there with Georgetown, Old Town and Annapolis. For 150 years, the town has been famed for its “clustered spires,” a phrase from John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem about Barbara Fritchie, who supposedly said to the Confederate soldiers marching by (if not to Stonewall Jackson himself): “Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, but spare your country’s flag.”
The church spires are there, clustered (loosely) and set among late-18th-century and 19th-century commercial buildings and residences. Heritage Frederick leads a Civil War-themed walking tour on the first Saturday of the month, an art-and-architecture walking tour on the second Saturday and a general-interest walking tour on the other Saturdays and on Sundays.
Occupied by both the Blue and the Gray, Frederick is known as the Crossroads of the Civil War. A walk along South Market will take you to Mount Olivet Cemetery, where 311 Confederates are buried in “Confederate Row,” accompanied by many more, unidentified, who died in the nearby battles of South Mountain, Antietam and Monocacy. For this reason and others, Frederick is known as “Maryland’s Most Haunted City” (ghost tours depart from Brewer’s Alley).
Mount Olivet is also the final resting place of Francis Scott Key, marked with a somewhat operatic monument dedicated more than 50 years after his death. The “Star-Spangled Banner” lyricist’s 238th birthday is Tuesday, Aug. 1.
During the Civil War, Frederick buildings were used as military hospitals by both sides. On East Patrick Street is the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, which offers walking tours on the first Saturday of the month.
First Saturdays are a thing in Frederick, and the next one, Aug. 5, will be a doozy. In addition to galleries and many shops staying open until 9 p.m., the Frederick Wine Festival will bring 20 Maryland wineries and live entertainment to Carroll Creek Park. The Potters’ Guild is hosting Brain Freeze 2017, an ice cream social where $20 gets you a handcrafted bowl filled with South Mountain Creamery ice cream, benefiting the Frederick Rescue Mission. The troupe of Morris dancers known as the American Travelling Morrice will do several shows at 20 North Market Street and folk-rockers the Sweet Remains will perform at All Saints’ Episcopal Church to raise money for the Student Homelessness Initiative Partnership.
Can’t make it to Frederick Aug. 5? The following weekend is the Four County Quilters Guild Quilt Show at the Frederick Fairgrounds and a three-game series between the Frederick Keys (as in Francis Scott) and the Potomac Nationals at Harry Grove Stadium; at the Aug. 12 game, Flying Dog Brewery is sponsoring a Jonathan Schoop Gnome Giveaway and fireworks. Shake Your Keys!