A New Monument in Cumberland and those Historic Mile Markers

In recognition of the 200th anniversary of the National Road, the City of Cumberland is working to construct a small National Road monument at George Washington’s headquarters along Greene Street downtown. The monument is planned to be a replica of a mile marker (see a rendering here), and the Times-News reports that the monument may be finished by July 4. Update: the monument will be dedicated at the city’s Heritage Days Festival on June 10 at 3 p.m.

Originally, “America’s Main Street”  ran along the modern MD-49 over Haystack Mountain, but was later re-routed through the Narrows north of the city. So, the location of the monument is supposed to mark the start-point of the original routing of the National Road.

The Cumberland city council is currently in the process of awarding the contract for the monument after opening bids on Jan. 25. To help finance the estimated $86,000 project, the city is selling small, 8-inch replica wooden mile markers that were made for the 2011 National Road bicentennial, and engraved bricks that will be placed at the walkway to the monument. The mile markers are $20 and the bricks are $50. The deadline for brick purchases is Feb. 15, and can be made using this form or by contacting City Planner David Umling atdumling@allconet.org. See Times-News links here and here for more information.

A stone mile marker in Grantsville, Md.

Speaking of mile markers, these structures were unique to the National Road versus other early famous highways in the United States is the establishment of mile markers along the northern side of the road. Each marker gives the distance to Cumberland, Md., as well as closer cities and towns. The shape and size of each marker varies along the road, as the design changes based on where the markers were made. For examples, mile markers from Brownsville, Pa., to Cumberland were made in Connellsville, Pa., and are all similar, as are markers from Brownsville to Wheeling, W.Va., which  were produced in Brownsville.

These mile markers were made of stone or cast iron, and while some originals do exist, most that currently stand are full or partial replicas. Some portions of the National Road have had better luck preserving the markers than other areas, such as a series of six markers in eastern Ohio County, W.Va., which are on the National Register of Historic Places (see the original application here). Nevertheless, each is still a historic and unique feature for this highway. I don’t know of a database which has a listing of all currently-existing mile markers, but such a site would be great for researchers.

A stone marker in rural Garrett County, Md.

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