Crossroads of America Mural

Crossroads of America Mural (HM2L9L)

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N 39° 39.022', W 78° 45.82'

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250,000 barrels of beer and ale annually. Abundant local coal and silica allowed 25 glass companies to flourish here between 1884 and 1992. In 1921, the Kelly-Springfield Tire Company established a plant that covered 81 acres in Cumberland and employed more than 2,000 people.

Cumberland's manufacturing prosperity led it to become Maryland's second-largest city and earned it the nickname "Queen City." Local businesses invested in beautifully designed buildings lining Baltimore Street, downtown's main thoroughfare. The Queen City Hotel, built in 1871 by the B&O Railroad had 174 rooms, a 400-seat dining room and formal gardens with wandering peacocks. Wealthy citizens sponsored the construction of numerous steepled churches and the B'er Chayim synagogue, among the oldest in the United States. They also built themselves elaborate homes on Washington Street.

Allegany County has held onto its roots as a crossroads. From Canal Place in Cumberland, hikers and bikers can travel east along the C&O Canal Towpath to Washington, DC, or west on the Great Allegheny Passage to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The originating point of the National Road is just across Will's Creek from this mural. US Route 40 largely follows the route of the old National Road west from Cumberland. Visitors can still ride the rails either on the Western Maryland Scenic Railway here at Canal Place or

from the Amtrak station, located where the Queen City Station Hotel once stood.

The rivers near what is now Cumberland, Maryland cut through the hills, creating natural pathways that made it easier for people to move east-west through the mountains, which run north-south.

This region was a crossroads for Native American travelers long before European colonists arrived. Arrowheads, tools and even markings indicating where huts once stood exist at prehistoric sites in this area. At the Barton Site on the Potomac River, archaeologists found two Susquehannock camps that redate European settlers.

Photo by John Bone, courtesy Allegany Museum.

A hill at the confluence of Will's creek and the Potomac River created an ideal setting for Fort Cumberland, which was the British Empire's westernmost outpost when it was built.

This 1772 portrait of George Washington shows him in the uniform of a Colonel of the Virginia Regiment, 18 years after he visited Fort Cumberland as a staff volunteer for General Braddock. Washington's first military command was here in Cumberland.

Although the defeat of General Braddock, shown here wounded in a carriage, was a disastrous beginning to the French and Indian War for the British, the road he carved through the wilderness played an important role in providing European settlers access to the West.

Print based on a painting by Alonzo Chappel

One of the principal modes for east-west transportation of goods in the 1800s was the Conestoga Wagon, which is easily identified by it projecting concave canvas top.
Painting by Newhold Hough Trotter (1827-1898), courtesy State Museum of Pennsylvania.

The need to get coal from Allegany County to industrial centers, such as Scranton and Pittsburgh, spurred the creation of local locomotive, rail and railroad car building businesses like the Cumberland and Pennsylvania Railroad shop at Mt. Savage, shown above.

A heavy demand for Allegany County coal also came from Baltimore, where steamships, like the one photographed in 1849, were loaded with fuel.

Locomotives and steamship photos courtesy Mount Savage Historical Society and the Maryland Historical Society.

Coal from mines in the Georges Creek region, such as the Koontz Mine, shown here, was famous for its clean-burning low-sulfur content, which made it ideal for powering steamboats, locomotives, mills and machine shops. By 1907, Western Maryland was producing 6 million tons of coal per year and shipping it around the world.

The La Vale Toll Gate House, built in 1835 just a few miles up the National Road from Cumberland, was the first toll collecting station travelers had to pass on their way West. It is one of only three remaining toll gate houses along the National Road.

Canal boats leaving the wharfs at Cumberland would pass 74 locks, 7 dams, 11 aqueducts and 3,118-foot-long tunnel on their way to Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

The Western Maryland Railway station (building to your left), built in 1913 at what is now Canal Place, served as a control tower for the railroad until 1973. Now fully restored, the Station is home to the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, a Visitors Center, and the C&O Canal National Historical Park Interpretive Center.

The prominent steeple of Emmanuel Episcopal Church is a Cumberland landmark, and marks the spot where Fort Cumberland once overlooked the confluence of Will's Creek (foreground) and the North Branch of the Potomac River.

Built in the first decade of the 20th century, the Footer Dyeworks was an expansive steam cleaning and dyeing facility that employed 500 people and several hundreds of local and regional clients, including the White House. One of its original buildings is now restored and is located immediately to the south of the I-68 overpass at Canal Place.

The B&O Railroad constructed the 174-room Queen City Station Hotel in 1871 to serve both as a destination hotel and train station. It had formal gardens with a fountain and peacocks, a ballroom and a 400-seat dining room.

The C&O Towpath and the Great Allegany Passage Trails begin and end in front of the Western Maryland Railway Station at Canal Place. The trails make it possible to travel 330 traffic free miles from Washington, DC to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along canals, rivers and railways, and through historic towns and beautiful landscapes.

Photograph courtesy of Dave Romero/Vibrant Image
HM NumberHM2L9L
Placed ByAllegany County, Maryland; Canal Place; Maryland Heritage Area Authority; City of Cumberland, Maryland; Allegany Arts Council; CDBG; MSAC
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Saturday, September 28th, 2019 at 5:01am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)17S E 691871 N 4391342
Decimal Degrees39.65036667, -78.76366667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 39.022', W 78° 45.82'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 39' 1.3199999999999" N, 78° 45' 49.2" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling North
Closest Postal AddressAt or near , ,
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