Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cumberland Byways & History

A West Virginia highway trailblazer sign in Maryland

Cumberland, Maryland sits along the Potomac River, and the other side is a piece of land that is in West Virginia, and juts nearly into the heart of downtown. When I lived there, WV 28 came up a very narrow road on the edge of a tall hill, and many accidents occurred along the stretch. Ultimately, that stretch between Ridgeley and Fort Ashby were re-designated as Alternate WV 28, and the main highway was diverted to South Cumberland at Fort Ashby, ultimately crossing into Maryland near the Cumberland Airport.

The picture above was taken on Greene Street, which is the routing of US 220 through the west part of Cumberland. You will notice that although the sign is in Maryland, it is a West Virginia highway sign. I examined the back of the sign to see if it was a MDOT or WVDOT sign, but there were no asset labels on it.

A few feet away is the next sign, which gives directions to various highways in the area. Again, a WV highway shield is indicated, and is correct. There is also an I-68 shield on this sign. Interstate 68 extends from Hancock, Maryland at I-70, and goes west through Cumberland, Frostburg, and Grantsville, before entering West Virginia and terminating at I-79 in Morgantown.

Directional sign on Greene Street (US 220), Cumberland

If you look to the right at the traffic signals in the photo above, you will see the so-called "Blue Bridge" that spans the Potomac and connects Cumberland to Ridgeley, WV.

The Blue Bridge

Once you go across the Blue Bridge, you are in Mineral County and the town of Ridgeley, West Virginia. Looks like they did carry through with getting rid of the silly "Open for Business" signs I blogged about last year.

Welcome to Ridgeley, West Virginia

Ridgeley used to have a sign that speed limits are "Electriclly Timed", and it was indeed misspelled like that. At least that sign has been removed. When I first met the lovely spouse back in 1973, she was a high-school student who lived just outside the Ridgeley town limits on the south end of town. In the distance of the picture above, you can see a West Virginia historical marker. A closer look below shows that this was the site of Fort Ohio prior to the American Revolution, and the completion of Fort Cumberland back across the river in Maryland.

Fort Ohio Historical Marker in Ridgeley

Walking back over the Blue Bridge to Cumberland, I got a nice picture of the clouds and trees reflected in the waters of the Potomac.

Potomac River between Cumberland & Ridgeley

Another place of historic interest at this juncture of river, roads, cities, and states. On the Maryland side of the Blue Bridge is a small cabin that served as headquarters to General George Washington during the French & Indian War, and again as United States Commander-In-Chief. Fort Cumberland sat on a hill diagonally across the street from Washington's headquarters. Today's city of Cumberland derives its name from that fort. A church now sits on the hill, and is noted as a part of the famed Underground Railway that helped slaves escape from servitude prior to the American Civil War. In this part of the country, there is history all around us.

George Washington's Cumberland Headquarters

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