- 1 Consolidation coal and the Big Vein
- 2 Transportation and distribution
- 3 Brewing industry
- 4 Glass industry
- 5 Tire industry
- 6 Textile industry
- 7 Post-Industrial
- 8 Climate
- 9 Education
- 10 Area colleges and universities
- 11 Tourism
- 12 Annual and seasonal events
Consolidation coal and the Big Vein
In the early 19th century a 14-foot thick seam of bituminous coal referred to historically as the "The Big Vein" was discovered in the Georges Creek Valley. This coal region became famous for its clean-burning low sulfur content that made it ideal for powering ocean steamers, river boats, locomotives, and steam mills, and machines shops.
By 1850, almost 30 coal companies were mining the Georges Creek Valley, producing over 60 million tons of coal between 1854 to 1891. The Consolidation Coal Company, established in 1864 and headquartered in Cumberland, Maryland became one of the largest bituminous coal companies in the eastern United States and Cumberland had financial connections that reached beyond Washington, DC and Baltimore to New York and London. Mine owners and their lawyers announced their importance by building large houses on the Cumberland higher grounds. A few miles west of the city clusters of company towns lined the valley and spread into adjoining ravines.
Maryland's coal production begin in the 1780s, when small amounts were mined for Fort Cumberland, a frontier outpost. In 1830, the first coal shipments eastward were made by barge down the Potomac River, a route later abandoned because of the rapids in the river. The State's first coal mining company was incorporated in 1836, but coal production did not become important unit the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad reached Cumberland in 1842. In 1850, the opening of the Chesapeake and Ohio canal from Cumberland to Washington, DC provided another route for coal shipments. Over 21 million short tons of coal were transported on the canal before it closed in 1923.
Maryland's coal production rose about 1 million short tons in 1865, exceeded 4 million short tons by the turn of the century, and reached an all time high of about 6 million short tons in 1907. A small amount of the coal production in the early 1900s was premium smithing coal (as in blacksmith) that was specially processed and delivered in box cars to customers throughout the United States and Canada. Coal production declined sharply after 1920, reflecting downturns in the economy recurrent labor problems and the extensive replacement of coal by the petroleum. Production fell below 1 million short tons during the 1950s and early 1960s before the trend turned up-wards, due mostly to an increasing use of coal to generate electricity. over 3 million short tons were produced by the state of Maryland in 1992.
Transportation and distribution
Transportation systems have played a major role in the history and development of Cumberland. Situated on the Potomac River at a natural gateway through the mountains, Cumberland prospered in its early years as a major transportation hub. The development of the National Road, the country's first federally funded public works project, began in Cumberland in 1811 and reached Wheeling, West Virginia by 1818. Cumberland's transportation system evolved around the C&O Canal and burgeoning rail lines, shaped by the natural setting of the mountains, Potomac River, and Wills Creek. More recently, completion of Interstate 68 has improved connections to outside regions including the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area to the east, Harrisburg to the northeast, and Pittsburgh to the northwest.
Breweries existed in Cumberland as early as the 1870s.
- The Cumberland Brewing Company (1890-1958) which operated on North Centre Street produced Old Export Beer and Gamecock Ale. The Cumberland Brewing Company was the oldest major brewery that operated in Cumberland, and was purchased by Queen City Brewing Company in 1958. It was the last surviving brewery in Cumberland before it closed its doors in 1976.
- The Queen City Brewing Company, aka German Brewing Company, (1901-1976) which operated on Market Street, produced Old German Beer Premium Lager. In the 1970s Pittsburgh Brewing Company acquired the Queen City Brewing Company. At its peak, the Queen City brewery produced over 250,000 barrels of beer and ale a year in Cumberland.
Glass manufacturing played an important role in the growth of Cumberland from 1880 to 1930. The Warren Glass Works Company located in South Cumberland, and the Cumberland Glass Works located at the west end of North Mechanic Street, were established in the early 1880s and would become the two major glass making firms. The industry used local coal as an economical fuel, and native pure silica sandstone in the making of the glass. At the peak of production around 1920, well over 1,000 people were employed in the glass factories and decorating shops. The onset of the Great Depression, coupled with the destruction of seven factories by fire dealt the glass industry in Cumberland a fatal blow. Recently, however, a glass decorating business opened in the city, using some equipment from the former companies.
As coal production diminished in the first quarter of the 20th century, the auto-industry moved into Cumberland and promised new jobs for former miners. Kelly-Springfield Tire Company came to Cumberland to manufacture tires in 1921. At its peak the company employed well over 2,000 people.
The Kelly Springfield Tire Company, founded in Springfield, Ohio by Edwin Kelly and Arthur Grant in 1894, experienced near continuous growth during the beginning of the 20th Century. In 1916 the Kelly-Springfield's President, Van Cartwell, decided to build a new plant in Cumberland, Maryland. An agreement was signed on November 4, 1916. The plans called for the city of Cumberland to provide a free site and $750,000 for the plant. The city was also to make improvements for roads, water, and sewerage lines and other essential construction.
The new plant site comprised 81 acres. The plant was to employ over 3,000 people with a production capacity of 5 times the current production capacity of the company. The first tire was made at the Cumberland plant on April 2, 1921. The Kelly-Springfield Tire Company grew.
Fourteen years later, in 1935, the Kelly-Springfield Tire Company was sold to The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Edmund S. Burke became president. He served as president from 1935 until 1959. The company operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of Goodyear.
The company continued to grow until 1962. At this time Kelly-Springfield/Goodyear added a new plant in Tyler, Texas. Another plant was build in 1963 at Freeport, Illinois. A third plant in 1969 in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
In 1987, just 66 years after it made the first Kelly-Springfield tire in Cumberland, the plant was closed. In that same year the Lee Tire & Rubber Company came under the control of Kelly-Springfield.
In November 1987 the company's corporate offices were moved to a new facility on Willowbrook Road in Cumberland.
The original plant site was returned to the City of Cumberland. Much of the factory and most of the out buildings have been torn down. The site now houses a branch of the Cumberland YMCA and the Riverside Industrial Park.
- Amcelle: Cumberland Celanese Facility (1924-1983)
In 1917, prior to the US entry into war world I, the War Department of the United States Government negoiated with Swiss inventor and Businessman, Dr. Carmille Dreyfus, to establish an acetate dope production facility in Cumberland. At the time acetate dope was needed by the aircraft industry to coat and stretch the fabric on aircraft fuselages. Construction of the Cumberland facility began in 1918, but the war was over before the plant could be completed. As a result, production at the Cumberland factory was shifted from producing Acetate dope for the Military to production of Cellulose Acetate yarn for the textile industry. The first Acetate yarn spun in America was on Christmas Day, 1924, at the Cumberland Plant.
In 1925, the word "Celanese" is introduced as a trade name. It is a combination of the words "cellulose" and "ease". Celanese acetate is introduced as "Artificial Silk."
In 1926, a weaving mill was established in the Cumberland Plant to develop acetate-containing fabrics on a commercial scale. This mill included equipment that could dye and weave the new fibers successfully.
In 1927, the company changed it name from American Cellulose and Chemical Manufacturing Company (Amcelle), to Celanese Corporation of America.
In the 1960s, Celanese also provided a public swimming pool, allowing anyone to swim for 25 cents a day. This was a great service, since this was one of the very few public pools in the area.
In 1974, the Celanese establishes a Cytrel Tobacco Supplement plant in Cumberland with a peak capacity of 20 million lbs a year.
The twentieth century witnessed major changes in Cumberland's economy. Losing out to competition from the faster-moving railroad, the C&O Canal declined in importance until it closed in 1924. The railroad industry also suffered from competition from other modes of transportation in the twentieth century. Traditional industries such as glass making, textiles, and breweries lost ground or disappeared. Nevertheless, manufacturing remained the major source of employment in the City and Allegany County as a whole until relatively recently (mid-1980). Both Kelly Springfield (which manufactured tires at its facility in southwest Cumberland) and Celanese (which established the Amcelle Plant for the production of cellulose acetate about five miles south of the City) located in the area in the 1920s. These companies along with PPG Industries and Westvaco were major employers through much of the twentieth century.
Plant layoffs and closures during the 1970s and 1980s signaled a major industrial decline for the City, reaching its nadir with the final closures of the Celanese and Kelly Springfield plants. A major reason for these closures was the emergence of new technologies that rendered older industrial processes and equipment obsolete. In the 1990’s, Kelly Springfield was absorbed by parent company Goodyear and moved its corporate headquarters to Akron, Ohio, another setback for the City’s economy. Of the "Big Four" employers, only MeadWestvaco remains a significant provider of manufacturing jobs at its Luke Mill Plant, located about 18 miles southwest of Cumberland in Luke, MD.
Cumberland experienced the same fate as many American cities in the latter quarter of the 20th century; many industries closed their doors, leading to significant out-migration during this period, but Cumberland natives remained resilient.
Today, the population of the Cumberland area has stabilized, with a small decline in city's population due primarily to sprawling of residents into the rural areas outside the city limits.
Many service related industries have emerged over the past 20 years, particularly in the areas of tourism and entertainment, focusing around Cumberland's rich history, natural beauty, and cultural resources. Between 2001-2005 alone, the Cumberland Arts, entertainment, and recreation industry has grown by 29.2 percent.
Cumberland experiences four distinct seasons, including warm summers and cold winters. Temperatures around 20°F are common in the winter months, while temperatures can reach 95°F in the summer.
The offices of Allegany County Public Schools are located in Cumberland. ACPS compete in a number of academic competitions for students, including the Stock Market Game, Science Olympiad, Science Fair, Spell-A-Thon, Maryland Facts Quiz Bowl, the National Children's Creative Writing Contest Elementary and Middle School Spectra Quiz Bowl, Math Counts, Mock Trial Teams, Secretarial Science Contest Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee, Voice of Democracy, and the Maryland Science Quest.
Athletic programs also abound, with competition in everything from football, soccer, baseball, volleyball and track to tennis, bowling, wrestling and golf.
Area colleges and universities
All 3 listed at within a quick drive of Cumberland:
Cumberland's downtown is an attraction for locals and tourists alike. The heart of the downtown area is Baltimore Street. Formerly the main thoroughfare through the city, Baltimore Street is now a brick pedestrian mall. The street is lined with large multistory commercial buildings, most of which were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These buildings, which were formerly banks, hotels, and department stores, are a relic of the city's former wealth and importance during the industrial age. They now contain more tourist oriented businesses such as sidewalk cafes, antique stores, boutiques and art galleries. Baltimore Street hosts some of the city’s biggest sidewalk festivals and block parties. In the warmer months the weekly Farmers Market will draw hundreds downtown and often evenings there will be activities such as outdoor dining with live music or block parties.
Western Maryland Railway Station
A block west of the downtown pedestrian mall is the Western Maryland Railway Station This early 20th century train station is home to the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, known regionally as "Mountain Thunder". The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad offers 3 hour round trip tours from Cumberland to Frostburg during the trip passengers often enjoy thrills brought on by the restored 1916 Baldwin Steam Locomotive. The Western Maryland Railway Station is part of the Canal Place Heritage Area, the first in the State of Maryland. More information can be found at.
Canal Place heritage area
Canal Place is located at the western terminus of the C&O Canal. A national park has been created in the city center at the intersection of the railroad, C&O Canal, and Allegheny Highlands Trail of Maryland at Canal Place. While at the Heritage Area, visitors can ride the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, tour a full-scale replica canal boat, visit the C&O Canal National Historical Park Cumberland Visitor Center, get information about attractions and events in Allegany County, hike or bike ride on the canal towpath, or attend unique festivals and events like C&O CanalFest. A re-watering project is underway which when completed will allow visitors to ride in replica canal boats through a portion of the old canal.
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park is 184.5 miles following the Potomac River from Georgetown in Washington, D.C. to Cumberland. It's towpath is extremely popular with runners, hikers, and bicyclists. There are campsites approximately every five miles along the trail. Wildlife is abundant as is opportunities to explore the past.
The Great Allegheny Passage
The C&O Canal has its Western Terminus at Canal Place, and it is possible to travel by foot or on bike from here to Washington, D.C. along the canal towpath - a distance of roughly 185 miles. In addition, The Allegheny Highlands Trail of Maryland is a 21 mile section of an expansive hiking/biking trail starting in Pittsburgh and ending in Cumberland where it connects with the C&O Canal towpath and onto Washington DC. Together, the C&O Canal towpath and the Allegheny Highlands Trails are part of the, 315 Mile Great Allegheny Passage.
Rocky Gap Resort and State Park
Just outside Cumberland, the Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort sits in the valley between Evitt's Mountain and Martins Mountain. The resort is located on the shore of the 243-acre Lake Habeeb in Rocky Gap State Park, and boasts Maryland’s only Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course.
Allegany County Museum
Located in Downtown Cumberland, the Allegany Country Museum exhibits the local history and architecture of the Cumberland Area. Some of the exhibits include: The History and Architecture of Allegany County, the History of Kelly Springfield Tire, MeadWestvaco, Prehistoric, Glassware, Fire Prevention, Folk Art, Brewing, and more. Open May to December.
The Narrows and Lovers Leap
The Narrows is a compact notched valley that Wills Creek has carved into Wills Mountain. The National Highway (Route 40) and numerous railroad lines pass through this steep, narrow, and rocky river valley on the edge of Cumberland. On the northeast side of Wills Mountain, sits a rocky outcropping known as Lover's Leap. The name comes from a Native American Romeo and Juliet legend. The tale tells how a jilted lover met his end by jumping off this ledge. Today, the rocks high above the water provide one of the most breathtaking views in the Allegheny Mountains. Lover's leap has been frequently romanticized by postcard pictures of this valley. The most famous post cards were taken by George Steward in 1950 and published in the 1953 book, U.S. 40.
Lover's leap is 1,652 feet above sea level and made up of oddly squared projectories of rock, from its top, all the way down to the National Highway (U.S. Rte. 40) below. The City of Cumberland and the surrounding states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia may be seen from this point. Further, it is known that the air currents whipping up and around are so strong, that a climber cannot be heard from the top once over the lip, nor can be easily seen due to the projected rock angles. (For more history, see also inventor Frederick John Bahr who bought Wills Mountain and built his log cabin on top.)
- The Thrasher Carriage Museum, in Frostburg, MD is one of the nation's top collections of horse-drawn vehicles, represents every walk of life from the milkman to the wealthy. Pleasure vehicles, funeral wagons, sleighs, carts, and more are on display in the renovated 19th century warehouse. Housed in a renovated warehouse opposite the steam train depot in Frostburg, this museum houses an extensive collection of late-19th- and early-20th-century horse-drawn carriages, featuring more than 50 vehicles from the collection of the late James R. Thrasher. Highlights include the inaugural coach used by Teddy Roosevelt, several Vanderbilt sleighs, elaborately decorated funeral wagons, formal closed vehicles, surreys, and open sleighs.
- The Paw Paw Tunnel. One of the world's longest canal tunnels and was one of the greatest engineering feats of its day.
- The Sideling Hill road cut is a 340-foot deep road cut where Interstate 68 cuts through Sideling Hill. It is notable as an impressive man-made mountain pass, visible from miles away and one of the best rock exposures in Maryland and indeed in the entire northeastern United States. Almost 810 feet of strata in a tightly folded syncline are exposed in this road cut.
- Dan's Mountain State Park
Annual and seasonal events
- Heritage Day Festival, Washington St. (Mid June)
- Farmer's Market, every Saturday downtown (From June to November)
- Sunday in the Park: free concerts every Sunday evening in Constitution Park Amphitheater in South Cumberland, sponsored by the Allegany Arts Council. (From May to September)
- CanalFest, located at Canel Place (Mid July)
- Allegany County Fair and Expo (Mid July)
- Homecoming: ALCO vs. FHS: First or second weekend before Thanksgiving at Greenway Ave Stadium. Homecoming is the final regular season football game for Cumberland's two public high schools Allegany High School and Fort Hill High School. The rivalry and team spirit expressed by the players and fans of each football team is unrivaled in Maryland high school football. Attendance at the game averages between 8,000 - 10,000 (approximately one-half of the population of the city.)
- Tri-State Concert Series concerts throughout the year from the golden age of rock-n-roll, swing, and big-band; as well as popular country and choral music.
- Western Maryland Street Rod Roundup: Over 1000 pre-1949 street rods featuring rod jousting, crafts, food, entertainment, parts vendors, vote for your favorite car. Allegany County Fairgrounds (Labor Day Weekend)
- Avalon's Annual Music and Arts Festival a 3 day music festival featuring Country, Folk, Blues, Rock, Appalachian, and Bluegrass music. Every August.
- Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony and Open-House: This event centers around the annual lighting of the City Christmas Tree in the heart of Downtown Cumberland where streets filled with Cumberland Residents come to see the mayor throw the switch on the tree and participate in the sights, sounds and joy of the holiday season. During the event there are several live musical performances at prominent businesses in the city center, including holiday choral and jazz vocal performances; as well as, galleries exhibiting local artist, including ceramics, photography, metal sculpture, jewelry and watercolor. (first day after Thanksgiving, aka. Black Friday)
- Bluegrass Jam Session: Every Sunday Evening at the Queen city Creamery from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm or later. Free Admission.
- The Great Allegany Run: Every October. 15K run from Mount Savage, Maryland to Downtown Cumberland; 5K run in Cumberland; 2 mile walk on C&O Canal; and Kids' Run.
- Halloween Parade: Every October along the main steen in South Cumberland.
- Homecoming Parade: Every November in Downtown Cumberland.