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Queen City Hotel and Railroad Station, torn down in 1972
Photograph courtesy of the City of Cumberland

Public and private efforts toward recognizing and conserving the historic character of Cumberland began at least as early as 1972 when the Washington Street Historic District was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. Creation of the district occurred, in part, as a reaction to the demolition of many historic buildings in the downtown during the federally-supported Urban Renewal era of the 1960s and early 1970s. Perhaps the sharpest loss experienced during this time was the demolition of the Queen City Railroad Station in 1972. Seeking to ensure the protection of Washington Street's historic properties against similar outcomes, the city passed its first preservation ordinance in 1974.

Downtown Cumberland pedestrian mall
Photograph by Kathleen McKenney, courtesy of the City of Cumberland

In 1976, a city-wide historic resources survey and conservation plan, completed by Land and Community Associates of Charlottesville, Virginia, recommended a comprehensive set of policies and actions to help the city's overall community revitalization strategy. At about the same time, as part of an effort to stabilize the downtown's retail market, Baltimore Street was closed to traffic and transformed into an outdoor pedestrian mall. In 1983, as part of the ongoing efforts to help revitalize the city's central retail and business district, most of downtown Cumberland was designated a historic district and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. While listing in the National Register did not (and does not) offer protection against demolition or alteration, National Register listing does make income producing historic properties in the district eligible for substantial federal tax credits for rehabilitation.

Western Maryland Railway Station, Headquarters of the Canal Place Preservation and Development Authority
Photograph by Kathleen McKenney, courtesy of the City of Cumberland

Cumberland's most recent preservation initiative came in 1993 with the Maryland legislature's establishment of the Canal Place Preservation and Development Authority. The Authority was created to support the National Park Service in the preservation and enhancement of the C&O Canal National Historic Park, specifically at its Cumberland terminus in and around the Western Maryland Railway Station known as Canal Place. One of the state legislature's primary charges to the Authority was the formulation of a comprehensive action plan based upon preservation initiatives. This plan maps out a strategy to help Cumberland reposition itself regionally in the competitive heritage tourism market.

In a city where the vast majority of building stock dates from the late 19th to early 20th century, the presence of heritage is as tangible as the building next door. While that building likely isn't considered a historic landmark, or the work of a master craftsman, or the setting of a famous historic event, it does probably contribute to the overall character of the block, to a sense of place within the city. In that respect, many of the anonymous "buildings next door" form something greater than the sum of their parts. The contribute to the city's overall sense of itself, which is part of Cumberland's cultural inheritance from its rich past.

Excerpt from "Design and Preservation Guidelines for Cumberland, Maryland," courtesy of the City of Cumberland.

Preservation in Cumberland Cumberland Architects The C&O canal and B&O Railroad Cumberland History


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