On one of the few weeks without some very welcome guests, Tom and I headed to Cumberland, Maryland. Why Cumberland? We had several reasons for going. First, it is about an hour away from Fort Necessity, so an easy drive. Second, we rode bikes through Cumberland several times but never stopped to see the town. Third, I could get two stamps for my National Parks Passport book.
Cumberland is the beginning point for the National Road, so we headed to the National Road Monument and mile 0. When Congress decided to build a National Road, they wanted to do it as cheaply as possible. This meant picking the shortest possible route from the east coast to the Ohio River. Because there was already a very good road from Baltimore to Cumberland, the distance for the National Road could be shortened. Although US 40 starts in Baltimore, the National Road started at the end of the Baltimore Pike, in Cumberland.
We also visited George Washington’s headquarters as he set off to build the first road into western Pennsylvania. This building was also the headquarters for General Braddock as he started for the battle of the Monongahela. Both the headquarters and the National Road monument are under I-68 between Wills Creek and the Potomac River. Consequently they aren’t the nicest part of town. In fact, it seems to be where all the homeless people hang out.
After looking at the monument and the headquarters, we headed in to the Canal Place Visitors Center. This is affiliated with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park (C&O Trail). The C&O Trail runs along the Potomac River for 184 miles as a bike and hike trail. You can ride from Cumberland to Georgetown and on to the Washington DC Mall. We did a couple of times with the Boy Scouts and it is a fantastic ride. But, because we were riding bikes both times, I didn’t get a stamp in my Passport book. So I remedied that situation. I also got a stamp for the Potomac Heritage Trail, which I will write about some more tomorrow.
Next we headed to the Allegany Museum. The first thing to notice about this museum is the incorrect spelling of Allegany. But, it seems to be the way they spell the word in Maryland. The museum is on the second floor of an old office building. Because it was formerly offices, the museum is chopped up into rooms that each have a theme. The theme, however, is not at all chronological. There was a Kelly Tire room, a wood carving room, a glassware room, a firefighting room, and (inexplicably) a Sleeping Beauty marionette room. It was a little odd, but it was free, so we couldn’t complain.
We walked down Baltimore Street, which is probably the nicest thing about Cumberland. They closed the street to traffic and have benches, pocket parks, fountains, and tables for restaurants set up. It was lovely and just lively enough. They were setting up for a Farmer’s Market and we strolled through the booths looking at all the goodies. About a dozen restaurants line the street as well, so we had our choice of places to eat.
We enjoyed our visit to Cumberland very much. It was the perfect blend of history and small city. We plan to go back in September, and you can be sure you will hear all about it.