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Second National Bank designed by Bruce Price
Photograph by Kathleen McKenney, courtesy of the City of Cumberland

The city of Cumberland boasts a rich and impressive array of architectural building stock, which dates predominately from the mid-1800s through the early 1900s. Many of these treasures can be attributed to several early architects who were Cumberland natives. Three architects, in particular, left their permanent mark on the skyline and streetscapes of Cumberland and, one local architect's imagination would, in fact, stretch beyond the boundaries of Cumberland and into other parts of the world.

The Cumberland-born architect who received national and international recognition was Bruce Price. Born in 1845, Price studied architecture in Baltimore and later in Europe. He started his architectural practice in Baltimore in 1869, moved to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1872, and in 1877 moved to New York City. Locally, Price designed the Second National Bank (now Farmers and Merchants Bank) and the parish house for Emmanuel Episcopal Church, which is located on Washington Street. Although he designed relatively few buildings in Cumberland, he gained quite a respectable reputation in this country and around the world. Price designed the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec, the Welch Dormitory at Yale University, as well as numerous residential and commercial buildings in New York City. Considered a New York City landmark, Price designed the American Surety Building in 1895.

1890s photograph of Chateau Frontenac in Quebec, Canada, designed by Bruce Price
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection [LC-D4-12754 DLC]

Price not only planned the layout for new town Tuxedo Park in New York; he likewise designed a number of buildings within it. Also, he invented, patented, and built bay window railroad cars for the Pennsylvania Railroad, as well as the Boston and Albany Railroad.

Price was a member and past-president of the New York Architectural League, the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and received a Fellowship designation from the A.I.A in 1890. Of additional interest, Price was the father of Emily Post, noted for her works concerning etiquette.

205 Columbia Ave., home of architect Wright Butler
Photograph by Kathleen McKenney, courtesy of the City of Cumberland

Probably the architect whose works are the most numerous in the area was Wright Butler. Born the son of H. Kennedy Butler, a local furniture manufacturer of note, Wright Butler studied at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore. His works covered a spectrum of architectural styles including Colonial Revival, Queen Anne, Georgian, and Spanish Mission styles.

Perhaps one of his most visible works is the Allegany County Court House, located at Prospect Square and Washington Street. This building was designed in the Romanesque Revival style. The residence that Butler as his own home, located at 205 Columbia Avenue, is listed individually in the National Register of Historic Places and is an interesting adaptation of the Queen Anne style, designed in a narrow, vertical style to meet the restrictions of the dimensions of the city lot on which it is situated. Examples of Butler's work can be encountered throughout the Washington Street Historic District as well as the Downtown Cumberland Historic District. His trademarks include using shingled rounded towers, stone lintels, dormer windows, dropped cornices, and stone walls around the lawns. Overall, Wright designed nearly 100 buildings within Cumberland.

101 S. Centre St. in the Downtown Historic District, designed by George Sansbury
Photograph by Kathleen McKenney, courtesy of the City of Cumberland

Another local architect whose works can be found in the Washington Street Historic District is George Sansbury. After graduating from the Maryland Institute in Baltimore in 1896, Sansbury was hired in Cumberland in the office of Herman Schneider and later opened his own office in 1900. Although his designs were not as elaborate as his contemporary, Wright Butler, examples of Sansbury's work can be located throughout the city, especially on Columbia and Shriver Avenues, as well as on Washington Street.

The legacy of the buildings that were the products of these three Cumberland-born architects defines the rich architectural heritage of the "Queen City." Bruce Price, Wright Butler, and George Sansbury embraced a variety of styles and uses of materials to create within the city a microcosm of architectural styles of the mid-19th to early 20th centuries. As we enter into a new millennium, residents and visitors alike can appreciate the extraordinary built environment that Cumberland possesses.

Written by Kathleen McKenney, Historic Planner/Preservation Coordinator, Department of Community Development, City of Cumberland.

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