This is an open letter to the mayor of Cumberland and Allegany County commissioners:
I agree with local author and historian, Gary Clites (“Might as well test the water both above and below the dam,” May 1 Times-News).
The 1955 George Washington’s Crossing “Blue Bridge” dam should be preserved! With serious thought and inter-agency cooperation, the area upstream could be developed for summertime pedal/row and small sail boats (as it was above the C&O Canal dam 100 years ago).
Wills Creek, through the impressive Narrows and lower Potomac River also are excellent, depending on the season, for canoeists and kayakers: beginners, intermediates and experts (challenging for experts at times). Why destroy a valuable local asset for the supposed benefit of a few?
I applaud the restoration of Western Maryland Station (1980s) and local efforts to preserve what’s left of the Footer Dye Works (est. 1872).
However, they remind one of other historic brick buildings, lost over the years, which could and should have been saved: Barnum House (Windsor Hotel), 1959, and Revere House (Kenneweg Building), 1964 (both of which added to the facade of Baltimore Street and are still remembered in local Civil War history).
Most regrettable was the loss of B&O Station (Queen City Hotel), 1972 (one of only a few remaining Victorian Era stations in America). What was gained? Half-empty parking lots and a post office, all of which could have been built elsewhere ... and money in a few pockets?
In recent years, many local groups and citizens have strived to save and maintain our local historical sites (with mixed results): W.Va. State Marker for 1749 Ohio Company Fort (Ridgeley), Fort Ashby and Cumberland’s Washington Headquarters (French & Indian War), 1790s Stewart’s Tavern (Short Gap), a National Road (1805) monument (Clarysville Inn was lost to fire, in 1999, but other early “rest stops” survive in the local area), 1864 Folke’s Mill Civil War battle site, the Lonaconing Silk Mill (est. 1905) closed in 1959, and ca. 1900 Western Maryland Railway tunnel-bridge (Carpendale).
The efforts of Cumberland’s cemetery group should be recognized, in honoring our early settlers, veterans of many wars, and others.
Also, the diligent work of professionals and volunteers of our local colleges, libraries, and museums, large and small, should not be forgotten in the preservation of our local history. Kudos also go to local administrations for their intelligent use of some “old” Kelly-Springfield Tire Company buildings.
While times are tight and money hard, I trust local politicians, professionals, businessmen and citizens will look forward and join together in these worthy causes.
In summary, I only can paraphrase the words of those, who have gone before us, “The true measure of a society lies in the way it preserves its past for future generations.”
Steven J. Herbaugh