Don Cook, 12/2002
Washington Street Historic District
Washington Street, Cumberland, Allegany County
Period/Date of Construction:
The Washington Street Historic District is an approximately 35-acre area to the west of downtown Cumberland which is primarily residential in nature. It consists primarily of six blocks of Washington Street as it undulates up from Willis Creek, the short block of Baltimore Street just west of the creek, and a small section of Green Street which parallels the creek along the foot of the hill that sharply rises with the beginning of Washington Street. Washington Street is lined generally with large-scale 19th and 20th century houses representing most of the major architectural styles prominent in the Mid-Atlantic region up to the start of World War II. Included here are examples of Greek Revival, Italianate, Gothic, Queen Anne, Romanesque, Colonial Revival, and bungalow. Near the eastern end of the district are two prominent county institutions, the 1890s Romanesque courthouse and the 1850s Greek Revival academy building which now forms the nucleus of the library. Smaller houses and small commercial buildings traditionally have characterized Green Street. The small block of Baltimore Street included is commercial in nature with a heavy residential zone historically. Here stands the Algonquin Hotel, built in 1926 as a residential hotel but converted to a more commercial hotel use in the late 1930s. Although the courthouse and the hotel structures are volumetrically greater than most of the houses, their heights are made less noticeable by their positions in the undulating streetscape.
The Washington Street Historic District derives historical significance from an early period with the construction of Fort Cumberland in the 1750s (a frontier outpost during the French and Indian War), as a political and educational center with the county courthouse and the first permanent school (now the nucleus of the county library complex on Prospect Square), and as the residence of Cumberland's leading citizens through the 19th century and into the 20th century. Here resided social, political, commercial, and industrial leaders of the city which by the close of the 19th century was the second largest city in Maryland in terms of manufacturing as well as physically the second largest in size and population, positions held by Cumberland well into the 20th century. Cumberland also was a major transportation center in the state. The Washington Street Historic District is also significant for its architecture. Within the District can be found some of the best examples of the major architectural styles popular in the Mid-Atlantic region during the 19th and 20th century in Cumberland. Influences represented include Greek Revival, Italianate, Gothic, Queen Anne, Romanesque, Colonial Revival and its various forms, and bungalow. Major national and local architects whose work is found in the district are John Notman, Bruce Price, Wright Butler, George Sansbury, and Robert Holt Hitchens.
Resources not specifically itemized in a list within NR nomination form.