Cumberland Times-News


November 29, 2009

Looking Back 1909: The B&O’s Christmas gift to Cumberland

As Christmas 1909 approached, it was looking like it would be a merry one. The country had come out of a couple of years when the economy had been weak. Retailers were seeing strong crowds in their stores.

Then on Dec. 6, The Evening Times announced, “Cumberland’s Christmas gift from the B. & O. is to be a handsome, modern passenger depot of artistic design, which will cost $100,000.”

While the popular Queen City Hotel had been a jewel in Cumberland’s crown for decades, the Baltimore and Ohio had built the Italianate-style hotel designed by Thomas N. Heskett beginning in 1871. It was completed the following year. It was both a station for trains to stop and a destination spot for tourists. It had more than 100 rooms, a formal garden with a fountain, billiards room and a grand ballroom. Railroad hotels were needed at the time because George Pullman had not yet invented the sleeping car.

It was a tourist destination for people looking to escape the stifling summer heat of places like Washington and Baltimore.

“People would come (to Cumberland) on trains; trains were big in the 1860s and so forth,” Ed Mullaney said in “Cumberland: A Hometown History.”

“There were nine passenger trains a day that would come through the B&O; Station and … many people would get off and stay in Cumberland. Cumberland was a good dropping-off point (to) take a rest.”

Though the plans for the new passenger station weren’t announced until December 1909, they had been around since 1906. According to The Evening Times, Division Engineer Leighty and his assistants drew up the plans in the summer of 1906, but it was shelved because the economy was weak.

The new passenger station would take up three floors. The first floor area would include men’s and women’s rooms, baggage storage, women’s retiring room and ticket office. The second and third floors would include engineering and general offices. The passenger entrance would be on Park Street. The construction/renovation didn’t actually begin until 1911 and it was completed in March 1912.

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