I made three trips to Cumberland in one week, in order to 1) enter photos into a photo competition, 2) return to pick up photos that did not get juried in, and 3) go to the opening reception for the photos that did make it in. Luckily, I had two, and my friend Norma had one, so yesterday we took our friend Jim on a road trip to Cumberland.
Cumberland is set down in a “bowl,” surrounded by higher elevations. It is also where Wills Creek and the Potomac River meet, so there are numerous bridges all seeming to cluster in one area near the railroad.
The city, once the headquarters of George Washington during the French and Indian War, became a transportation gateway between the East Coast and the Midwest, with the arrival of the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad. I won’t go into the history of the city, because you can read it for yourself, and the point of this blog is more about what I saw on my visit. But please do take time to read about what was once the second largest city in Maryland.
We arrived early for the gallery opening, so we parked at the Visitor Center and then walked along the Western Maryland Railroad station tracks to look at the waterways and bridges. It was late afternoon, and the air was hazy. We continued past the log cabin headquarters of George Washington, then started a walk up Washington Street, one of the most beautiful streets in Cumberland. Lined with churches, historic buildings, and Victorian mansions, it is full of photographic opportunity. But the light was fading, and the street was long (about 11 blocks), so we turned back at the courthouse and went to the downtown area.
The streets of downtown Cumberland were closed off in the 1970’s and turned into a pedestrian mall. However, it was apparent to us that downtown is suffering. Many of the big, brick facades are empty. There were only a few businesses open, with few people on the streets. People just don’t want to park out on the perimeter of downtown and walk in to get a haircut, shop for clothes, or visit a pharmacy. We all felt the lack of people, and said that we are spoiled by the great downtown that Frederick has. It could be that foot traffic picks up in warmer weather, but I have my doubts. It is a shame to see such once-beautiful buildings so empty and unused.
We found dinner at the Baltimore Street Grill, and then went to the gallery opening. It was quite well attended, and we were happy to see that. Although neither Norma nor I won any of the awards, I was pleased to see that one of my pieces had sold. That made three trips to Cumberland worth it, after all. Besides, I got to do a photo walk with friends in a new and interesting place. I’ll definitely be back for another walk, this time along Washington Street.
When we returned to Frederick around 8:45 p.m. to drop Jim off, the streets were full of people enjoying First Saturday. It seems that no matter what time of day or season, there are always people in our downtown. We are lucky to have it, and to be sure we can keep it, please support our local businesses. Without them, our downtown would suffer the same fate as so many of the historic districts I’ve visited in Maryland. You rock, Frederick!
“Life Through My Lens” is a travel/photography blog written by Cam Miller, copyright 2014
Email: cam.miller@comcast. net