Monthly Archives: June 2012

Mile 0 (literally) – National Road Monument, Cumberland, Md.

The newly-finished National Road monument. Between fundraising and construction, the mounument took about a year to complete.

The new National Road monument in Cumberland is finally open, after the city dedicated the monument on Sunday, June 10, as part of the annual Heritage Days festival.

The new monument is placed approximately at the start of the National Road’s original routing on Greene Street at Riverside Park. Fundraising for the monument started last year during the 200th anniversary of the start of construction of the National Road. There is also a time capsule around the monument that is supposed to be opened in 2211.

To be clear – the National Road was eventually re-routed through The Narrows and LaVale (current U.S.-40 ALT), rather than over Haystack Mountain (currently Md.-49). So, this monument marks the original route, and not the route that exists today.

The first National Road monument in Cumberland is located in a traffic island on Greene Street, and almost unnoticeable.

Previously, this historic spot was marked only by a small concrete marker in a traffic island at the intersection of Greene and the Blue Bridge, which brings traffic to Cumberland from Ridgeley, W.Va. Riverside Park, at the confluence of Wills Creek and the Potomac River, already had George Washington’s headquarters and remnants of Fort Cumberland, so the park was pretty unique already. The National Road monument, in my opinion, fits in well with what exists already.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) speaks during the dedication ceremony at George Washington’s Headquarters.

Another fact about the monument – in addition to Cumberland and Allegany County, communities in three states helped with funds for the monument: Frostburg and Grantsville, Md.; Brownsville and Claysville, Pa.; and Wheeling, W.Va. I found the fact that municipalities a good ways away from Cumberland would be willing to help with such a project. Of course, the major funding still came from the city, the Allegany County Historical Society, the U.S. Dept. of Transporation (through a National Scenic Byways grant) and other private donors and businesses.

The crowd at the dedication of the National Road monument at Riverside Park on June 10. The new monument is in the background.

Of course, with 2012 being an election year, Maryland politicians (or representatives of those politicians) had to visit the city to speak at the dedication ceremony. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and State Del. Wendell Beitzell all spoke in addition to Cumberland Mayor Brian Grim and Allegany County Commissioner Michael McKay.

To visit the monument, parking is available along Greene Street in Cumberland. There is also public parking at the Western Maryland Railroad Station, and a pedestrian bridge over Wills Creek connects the station area to Riverside Park.

The National Road monument in Cumberland fits into the surrounding Riverside Park.

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Mile 106 – S Bridge, Buffalo Twp., Washington County, Pa.

The S Bridge, Washington County, Pa.

An unusual form of bridge architecture exists along the National Road in Pennsylvania and Ohio – the ‘S’ bridge. These bridges are exactly what the name infers – they are shaped like an ‘S,’ apparently in an effort to save on materials.

The S Bridge in Pennsylvania is the only one of its kind in the state, and spans a small creek in western Washington County, just east of Claysville. The structure was built around 1818, and was eventually bypassed by newer infrastructure (like the fate of the Casselman River bridge in Maryland). In the case of ‘S’ bridges, as cars began to replace horses, and as those cars became faster, the curvature of those bridges posed a safety hazard as well.

The historical marker nest to Pennsylvania’s ‘S’ bridge.

Today, the bridge, its deck covered in grass, is still open to the public as a pedestrian path and is on the National Register of Historic Places. There is a parking lot north of the bridge on Pa.-221, and its a short walk to the bridge from the lot. The current U.S. 40 passes right beside the bridge, adjacent with its intersection with Pa.-221.

While Pennsylvania only has one such bridge, there are several remaining ‘S’ bridges in eastern Ohio. Jim Grey, who has been a frequent resource for this blog, has chronicled those structures. So until I get to Ohio (and even after), check out his blog.

Pennsylvania’s ‘S’ bridge spans a small creek in rural Washington County.


Mile 100 – Shorty’s Lunch, Washington, Pa.

Shorty’s Lunch, Washington, Pa.

It seems like almost every old city has at least one hot dog/hamburger/lunch place that has survived downtown for decades, despite the general decline of downtown areas in the U.S.

Washington has Shorty’s Lunch, tucked along West Chestnut Street downtown. Shorty’s has been around since 1932, and the eight booths inside haven’t changed. Like Coney Island in Cumberland, there is a bar/counter along one side of the dining area, and the booths line the opposite wall, making Shorty’s a pretty packed place with just a relatively small crowd.

The menu is pretty simple, with hot dogs and hamburgers being the staple. The grill sits in one of the front windows, so anyone walking along West Chestnut can see the rows of hot dogs being cooked inside. A hot dog with everything (which is what I inadvertently got) has a mustard base, and is then layers with a type of chili sauce and onions.

An “everything” hot dog.

I actually had no idea of the reputation Shorty’s has in southwest Pennsylvania. When I was in Washington, I just picked Shorty’s because it was one of the only older-looking restaurants downtown – and hot dogs always sound good. But as I started to look for background information online, I saw that Shorty’s had been featured in a number of publications including the Pittsburgh media (Shorty’s has its own Wikipedia article, which links to most of that information).

It’s not surprising that Shorty’s has a dedicated customer base – not only is the food good, but people seem to be generally protective of their old hot dog establishments (For me, I’m always going to be biased toward Coney Island in Cumberland, and will defend that it has the best hot dogs of anywhere – despite that there are just as many equally-great similar places).

Shorty’s is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. Parking is available along just about every street in downtown Washington. Because the menu is so simple, you’ll probably have whatever you order in less than a minute. Take-out also seemed to be a popular option at Shorty’s. It is located at 34 W. Chestnut St., between Main Street and Jefferson Avenue.
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