ABCs of American Architecture:
A Study of Washington Street Historic District, Cumberland, Allegany County, Maryland
The impressive collection of architectural styles from the mid-19th century to the early-20th century in the historic districts of Cumberland, Maryland, reflects the city's prosperity and growth during that period. Individual buildings within the downtown like the Fort Cumberland Hotel, Second National Bank, and Rosenbaum's Department Store reflect the variety of businesses that comprised the commercial area. Cumberland also boasts many impressive houses from this period, for example, in the Washington Street Historic District.
The Washington Street area in Cumberland is an easily-identifiable microcosm of the local architectural history of the nineteenth century. It is also a national landmark. The first six blocks and the adjacent block on Greene Street are identified on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service. This section is recognized because it expresses a "uniformity in quality and scale that ties the six blocks together into an important and delightful city scape". It is also part of the City of Cumberland’s Canal Place Preservation District and the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties.
Helene Baldwin, a professor of English at Frostburg State University, and Joy Douglas, later the chair of the Cumberland Bicentennial Commission, together researched and wrote a book exploring the development and diversity of architecture in the area, and delving into the origins and inspiration for the various styles. Local architect John Eiser provided full-page illustrations, and artist Gary Bartik created the cover and the small marginal images. The study was guided by Michael Pierce, planner for the City of Cumberland and funded by a grant from the National Endowment from the Humanities. The book was published in 1983, and printed by Cumberland printers Harriet and Robin Douglas, of Sir Speedy Printing.
The team covered the time period from the 1740s to the mid-20th century, as Cumberland exhibits examples of buildings from log cabins through Federal and Queen Anne to Art Deco and ranch houses. Wherever possible the authors provided references to a building constructed in a particular style – for example the Greek Revival of the Allegany County Library building, the Richardson Romanesque of the Allegany County Courthouse, and Second Empire of the Gordon Roberts House.
More on the history of the Washington Street Historic District can be found at
Washington Street Historic District, Cumberland and Maryland Inventory – AL IV 026.
|Western Maryland Regional Library is most grateful to the City of Cumberland for permitting this document to be scanned, and to Helene Baldwin, Joy Douglas, John Eiser and Gary Bartik for their research and talents.
The book was made available by the Washington Street branch of the Allegany County Library System.