The American capital could have settled in Havre de Grace, a hamlet in Maryland named in reference to a Norman port! But the Washington site won by one vote in 1789. At the bottom of Chesapeake Bay, at the mouth of the Susquehanna River, Havre de Grace was considered too vulnerable to English raids. Yet it is this maritime position that earned it its name.
In 1781, when the War of Independence was coming to an end, the Marquis de Lafayette, on his way to Philadelphia where he was to meet George Washington, would have stopped in the village then called Susquehanna Lower Ferry. These few houses along the water and the ferry that crosses the river remind him of the Seine estuary in Normandy. “But it’s the Havre de Grace here!” “, he would have exclaimed while admiring the landscape.
Four years later, a city was officially founded: in homage to Lafayette’s visit, the local councilors gave it the name of Harbour Grace. The Norman port, founded by François Iis in 1517, will abandon the religious reference “of Grace” during the Revolution to take the name that we know today: Le Havre.
Have de Grace now has nearly 14,000 inhabitants. With its lighthouse, its marina and its checkerboard historic centre, the work of the French surveyor Christian Hauducœur, it regularly appears in the list of the most beautiful small towns in the country. The names of its streets – Lafayette Street, Rochambeau Plaza and Bourbon Street, a tribute to the royal family of Louis XVI – signal its attachment to this fertile period in Franco-American history.