The Western Maryland city of Cumberland, Md. (pop. ~20,000), is the the start of the National Road (as most road enthusiasts know). The city’s 200+ year history makes it interestingly fascinating, especially for history buffs. Three of the more important transportation links in America’s history all converge here: the National Road, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio (now CSX) Railroad. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Cumberland was, for a time, the second-largest city in Maryland, and was a main export point for coal from the mines of Maryland and West Virginia. By the mid-20th Century, numerous factories dotted the city, ranging from the Celenese Chemical pant to the home of the Kelly-Springfield Tire Corporation.
Now, the factories are gone, and the city has over half the population is had at its peak, but within the last 10 years, positive signs are emerging. Continued work on revitalizing the downtown area is successful, and though the city lost population between 2000 and 2010, it wasn’t anywhere near older rates of population decline. At the same time, Cumberland continues to improve its downtown area, which has been branded as “Town Centre,” and is centered around Baltimore Street, which has been converted into a pedestrian mall. Specialty shops and local restaurants line Baltimore, Liberty, Centre and Mechanic Streets, giving life to the downtown area.
Closer to the bridge that carries I-68 through downtown is the Western Maryland railroad station, which hold a deli, the offices for the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad and the C&O Canal National Historic Park visitor center. And to top off downtown, a smaller shopping area, Canal Place, houses a few attractions, notably a restaurant and a bike shop for users of the C&O Canal towpath and the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail.
I’ll mention Cumberland’s attractions in detail in later posts, since each deserves more than just a brief statement.
Breakfast: Grab a donut or croissant at M&M Bakery, 80 Baltimore St. This bakery has been locally-owned and operated for decades, and makes fresh baked goods every day.
Morning: But to give just a quick suggestion for an itinerary, start your day at the C&O Canal visitor center, which, in addition to housing interactive exhibits on the canal, also provides a wealth of tourist information. Consider taking a walk along Washington Street, past historic churches and homes, one of which, the Gordon-Roberts House, is open to the public as a museum.
Lunch: Coney Island Wieners, 15 N. Liberty St. Coney Island has been around since the early 1900s, and continues to be a Cumberland tradition. Ask for your hot dog “with the sauce,” which is never regrettable.
Afternoon: Explore the shops downtown, which range from antiques to an independent bookstore.
Dinner: Crabby Pig at Canal Place, 13 Canal St. Try one of their specialties – Maryland crabcakes.
Lodging: Holiday Inn, 100 S. George St.; Fairfield Inn by Mariott, 21 Wineow St.