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Maryland's National Register Properties



Photo credit: MHT Files, n.d.
Footer's Dye Works
Inventory No.: AL-IV-A-171
Date Listed: 7/3/2013
Location: S. Mechanic Street and Howard Street, Cumberland, Allegany County
Category: Building
Period/Date of Construction: 1906
Description: The Footer’s Dye Works building is located along Howard Street in Cumberland, Maryland. The large brick building, located in 1906, is a long, narrow, four-story gable-roofed industrial structure. The long, north elevation runs along Howard Street almost to South Mechanic Street. Along the south elevation was a seven-bay, one-story-high, saw-tooth extension, demolished in 2009, leaving exposed openings along the ground level of the south wall. A loading dock protected by a suspended shed roof is located on the south elevation around a five-story concrete block elevator tower. Once part of a complex that included several four-story and one-story saw-tooth buildings as well as water towers and smokestacks, the current building is all that remains. The landscape to the south of the building is a level, gravel and macadam-surfaced lot with some vegetation. The building stands in the shadow of the elevated path of I-68. To the west of the building is the former right-of-way of a Western Maryland Railway spur that is now a pedestrian path through the Canal Place festival grounds. To the north and west of the building is the redeveloped Canal Place facility and beyond that, the C&O Canal, Potomac River, and Willis Creek confluence. The building is oriented with gable ends to the east and west. The north and south elevations are 20 bays in length, while the end walls are two bays wide. A concrete block elevator tower protrudes from the south wall toward the east end of the building. Along the cornice line of the two long sides of the buildings, framed catwalks have been attached to catch falling roof tiles and provide access to the roof and cornice area. The building rests on rock-faced formed stone foundations, which rise to a height above ground level of about three feet. The walls are of hard-fired red brick laid in five-course common bond at all elevations. The brickwork, especially on the end walls, is distinguished by extensive decorative corbelling, including quoins at the corners, a corbelled brick pediment and bands between the third and fourth stories. Round windows lined with header bricks are centered in each gable pediment. Segmental arches with triple rows of header bricks top the windows and doors. On the north (Howard Street) façade the window arches have decorative false keystones of slightly protruding bricks. Painted signage remains on the west gable wall identifying the building as Footer’s Dye Works. The painted work appears to date from the early 20th century and may be original to the period of construction of the building. Terra cotta tiles cover the roof. The interior of the building presents large cavernous spaces with steel columns placed at regular intervals for support. Significance: The Footer’s Dye Works building is locally significant as a representative example of the industry and its related factory architecture that fueled an economic boom in Cumberland, Maryland in the late 19th and early 20th century. As the only remaining building of a large complex constructed in the first decade of the 20th century, the Footer’s Dye Works building is an important remnant of the city’s dwindling industrial heritage. Throughout the 1920s, Footer’s Dye Works was one of the dominant cleaning and dyeing establishments in the mid-Atlantic region, with major branch offices located in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. At its peak, Footer’s Dye Works employed as many as 500 people and numbered the White House among its clients. Historically a vibrant industrial town served by numerous railroads, the C&O Canal, and the National Road, the city of Cumberland suffered a substantial loss of industry, jobs, and population through the second half of the 20th century. Although no longer occupied by industry, the remaining industrial buildings of Cumberland serve to highlight the historic web of transportation and industry that made Cumberland into the second largest city in Maryland. The last remaining building of a sizable industrial complex that was once the largest cleaning and dyeing establishment in the United States, the Footer’s Dye Works building now stands alone along Howard Street. Despite the removal of its companion buildings, the remnant of the once-sprawling complex retains integrity to reflect its historical associations with the industrial development of Cumberland and its architectural character as a typical industrial building of the early 20th century. The building housed the company’s office, and the functions of cloth finishing and pressing. It played a central role in the company’s function: where the company’s administration was carried out, and where crucial final steps in preparing the product took place. Although the setting has diminished through the removal of the other buildings that were once part of this complex, and the construction of the elevated I-68 platform adjacent to the building, the Footer’s building itself remains nearly as it was constructed and used in the early 20th century. The character defining features of the building are almost completely intact. At the exterior, windows, doors, distinctive corbelled brickwork, tile roofing, and painted signage all remain. The interior retains original tongue-and-groove flooring, wall partitioning and ceiling material, exposed structural steel columns and beams, and early, if not original, paint schemes. Windows and skylights, especially on the upper stories, remain in place. Thus, the Footer’s Dye Works building retains more than sufficient material to convey its historic character and important associations with Cumberland’s industrial past.
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