The Queen City lost another jewel in her tarnished crown Monday with the demolition on an emergency basis of the former Brunswick Hotel.
The rapid removal of the historic brick building, three stories high with nearly a dozen dormers in its roof, took place out of necessity, after city inspectors found the rear wall had buckled. That section of the failing structure collapsed not long after that, exposing interior walls and floor joists.
Situated near downtown streets and sidewalks, the deteriorating building posed a signifcant threat to public safety. Built in 1886, the Brunswick housed 25 hotel rooms and several first-floor businesses through the years, including a liquor store and tavern, a cobbler and a barber shop. The hotel closed years ago.
When Cumberland was bustling as Maryland’s second-largest city, the Brunswick was among numerous hostelries offering accommodations to travelers, many of whom arrived by train. The Fort Cumberland and Algonquin hotels have been converted into apartments, while the York, Windsor and Revere House were leveled decades ago. The Queen City Hotel and station, built, operated and eventually razed by the B&O Railroad, was an architectural gem before time and neglect stole its glory, with its magnificent wrought-iron trim and portico railing and prominent center cupola. Out of its dust rose the city’s nondescript main post office on Park Street.
Like many U.S. cities that thrived during the era of smokestack industries, “on this site once stood” plaques memorialize once-beautiful and functional buildings erased by wrecking balls and bulldozers. Such a metal tablet may be found in the post office lobby. Sacred Heart and Memorial hospitals and East Side School are among the recently departed.
Spurred on by a shrinking population and dwindling tax base, elected leaders believe tearing down dozens of houses not far from the Brunswick will fuel the local economy in the form of a village of retail establishments nestled near a yet-to-be-determined nationally known restaurant. “We Stand With Rolling Mill” signs have sprouted up in yards and other spots as residents express their displeasure with the project.
Regardless of one’s opinion on razing residences to raise revenue, this much is true: The city and county will be forced to find ways to continue to provide municipal services people have come to expect.
And while hotels have come down, others have gone up. Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott on Wineow Street near Canal Place seems to do a brisk business and a new Hampton Inn continues to take shape on Welton Drive off Shade’s Lane.
Rather than romanticize the past and lament what once was, citizens of Cumberland should try to be grateful for what remains and what someday may be.