You’ve likely passed hundreds, possibly even thousands of historical markers in your lifetime. However, like many people, you probably didn’t stop to check out a majority of them.
These markers can be a great way to experience history in person. The Historical Marker Database is full of more than 140,000 historical markers in the U.S.
Let’s look at 10 we think are must-sees!
What Does a Historical Marker Commemorate?
Historical markers can commemorate people, places, and events that played important roles in a state or region’s history. For example, some of the most common historical markers honor those who fought in the World Wars and Civil War. The markers help educate the public through signage with distinct lettering, background colors, and shapes.
However, some historical markers have been controversial, as they celebrate individuals with less than honorable pasts. Just because a state or local authority places a historical marker doesn’t mean they can’t revoke that status.
The 10 U.S. Historical Markers You Should Visit
We think it’s important to stop at historical markers whenever you have a chance. However, these 10 markers are ones we think you should plan to visit if you’re traveling in the area. Let’s get started!
#1. I Have a Dream Marker, Indiana
Martin Luther King Jr. gave his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. However, Fort Wayne, Ind., wants to ensure locals and visitors don’t forget it. To do so, they erected a marker on the northwest corner of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Bridge.
The marker has the inscription, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal.” The marker honors Dr. King’s life and legacy and how he worked in a non-violent manner to help challenge society’s understanding of humanity and equality.
#2. Mary S. Howell Marker, New York
In Mount Morris, N.Y., you’ll find a historical marker honoring Mary S. Howell. She fought courageously for the equal right to vote. As a result, a historical marker sits in front of her house at 22 State Street in Mount Morris to honor her achievements for women’s suffrage. Additionally, The National Votes for Women Trail includes several other historical markers that commemorate this struggle.
#3. The Stonewall Inn Marker, New York
The Stonewall Inn is in New York City. The location had a significant impact on the LGBTQ community. This marker pays tribute to the patrons and crowd outside the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar raided by police on June 28, 1969. The initial raid was just the start of several nights of confrontations in Christopher Park and other adjacent streets.
Above all, the city placed the marker in 2016 to recognize the site for helping give increased visibility to those in the LGBTQ community.
If you find yourself visiting New York, a stop by The Stonewall Inn allows you to walk the streets and sidewalks that played a major role in the fight for equality.
#4. Trail of Tears Marker, Alabama
This marker is in Rocky Springs, Ala. In 1838, a group of Cherokee Indians refused to move to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma. As a result, soldiers followed orders from U.S. Army General Winfield Scott to round them up.
They forced approximately 3,000 tribal members to board a boat and float down the Tennessee River. The soldiers put another 16,000 into stockades in Tennessee and Alabama.
Sometimes, historical markers point out the darkest times in American history. This is one such marker. The 1830 Indian Removal Act that the U.S. Congress passed resulted in removing indigenous people from their land by force.
While this marker highlights a very dark time in American history, it helps us remember the circumstances in hopes that we shall never treat others this way again.
Pro Tip: After you find the Trail of Tears historical marker, explore these 7 Best Alabama State Parks for Camping.
#5. Ross County Underground Railroad Marker, Ohio
In Alma, Ohio, you’ll find a historical marker for the Ross County Underground Railroad. The marker helps remember the brave men and women who assisted runaways seeking freedom.
The locals would often forge papers, create disguises, and even maintain safe houses along the route. Therefore, this marker remembers the bravery of people who took risks for others freedom.
The Underground Railroad helped thousands of slaves escape to freedom. Whether the newly freed slaves sought permanent residence or were just passing through, the people of Ross County played a significant part in their new lives.
#6. Babe Ruth’s First Home Run Marker, North Carolina
George Herman Ruth was one of the greatest professional baseball players to ever live. Most people who know his name remember him as a home run hitter. While he hit 714 home runs in his professional career, we couldn’t possibly have historical markers for each one. Therefore, Fayetteville, N.C., commemorates the site of his very first home run.
The city put up this marker in 1951. It also indicates that Ruth got his “Babe” nickname while in town. While the former baseball field is now the lawn for the North Carolina Department of Transportation Division of HIghways, it’s still a great stop, especially if you’re a fan of baseball.
#7. World War II Displacement, Ohio
When a nation is in crisis, it requires quick and major action. The World War II Displacement historical marker is in Marion, Ohio. This historical marker recognizes the sacrifices made by 126 families in the Likens Chapel community. The government enforced eminent domain and purchased the properties to erect a 13,000-acre munitions manufacturing complex.
Many of the families forced out during the land grab were farmers. These families were dependent on the land for their livelihoods.
As a result, these families were put in a very precarious position. However, they understood the need during the crisis.
#8. A BASIC Historical Marker, New Hampshire
This one is rare even among historical markers. In 2019, New Hampshire installed possibly the first historical highway marker to honor computer programming. Two mathematicians at Dartmouth University wanted to create an easily-accessible programming language for their students. As a result, the BASIC, Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code was created.
You can find the marker off Route 120, just a short drive to the Dartmouth campus. If you’re reading this article, you likely have a computer programmer to thank for it.
In conclusion, the creation of BASIC paved the way for many of the technological advancements we enjoy today.
#9. The First Railroad in the U.S. Marker, New York
In August 1830, construction began on the first railroad in the U.S. This historical marker is in upstate New York, in Albany, and helps others remember the significance of this achievement. The first chartered railroad opened on Sept. 24, 1831, and was a short 16-mile section of track that ran from Albany and Schenectady to the Pine Bush region.
Passengers loved riding the train and reducing their travel time to the Erie Canal. Meanwhile, in 1853 the railroad company consolidated into the New York Central Railroad.
If you’ve ever traveled by train in the U.S., you can thank those involved with this first railroad for it.
#10. Christmas Tree Lane, Altadena
If you enjoy large cedar trees and Christmas lights, this is the place for you. Located in Altadena, Calif., this historical marker pays tribute to the efforts of volunteers and the Christmas Tree Lane Association. Impressively, each holiday season, they line the trees with over 10,000 lights.
The “Mile of Christmas Trees” is an experience you’ll not soon forget. This is the oldest large-scale Christmas light spectacle that you’ll find in southern California. It can add a bit of magic to your holiday season. So if you’re in southern California during the holiday season, be sure to stop in for a visit!
Pro Tip: Christmas Tree Lane, Altadena isn’t the only amazing drive through light display! Check out all of these Best Drive-Through Christmas Lights in America.
Great Stops Full of History
There’s something different about experiencing historical markers and sites in person. Firstly, it can bring to life the words and paragraphs from the textbooks you read in school.
Secondly, many significant places in the country get overlooked. Luckily, you can find several of these important sites relatively easily with large historical marker databases.
What’s your favorite historical marker you’ve visited? Drop a comment below!
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