Cumberland Times-News

Betty Van NewKirk - From the Museum

May 15, 2008

Uhl Street intriguing mystery in Frostburg


In 1905, he was named to the State Roads Commission, where he continued to serve for many years. The Uhl Highway - now known as Route 51 - was named in his honor.

But was Uhl Street named for him? He did not live there, or at any other Frostburg address. I wonder whether naming the street was a bit of political strategy like the naming of Pinchot Trail in Pennsylvania.

That road was a nameless nine-mile stretch when our family first traveled across it in a Model T Ford. We had to plough through slippery mud; we climbed over bare rock ridges; we forded streams and stirred up dust.

But two years later we found the roadway smoothed and straightened and paved. Local people got the bright idea of renaming the road in honor of Governor Pinchot, who was taken on a ceremonial ride from one end of it to the other, including every bump and slough. The bulldozers and scrapers and tar trucks were on the scene almost before the governor got back to Harrisburg!

Was there a similar strategy here in Frostburg, naming the street for the man in charge, and laying small bets on the time it would take for the roadbuilding equipment to arrive?

Another possibility is that Uhl Street was named for an entirely different member of the Uhl family, perhaps only distantly related.

Quite by accident I stumbled across a small item in the Cumberland Times of 1913, mentioning that a man from Texas was visiting his uncle, Peter Uhl, in Frostburg.

Peter was identified as a hatter, with a small shop on Main Street, where the marble yard was established in the late 1800s, to be replaced by a series of coffee shops more recently.

Presumably Peter made men's hats, turning fur-clippings into felt and shaping the felt into fedoras and derbys. Unfortunately, there is no information about when, or for how long, Peter Uhl continued his business, or whether the street carries his name.

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Betty Van NewKirk - From the Museum
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