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Decatur Heights

Although Decatur Heights [1] is one of the City's early expansions, it really began to flourish around 1840, just before the Baltimore and Ohio railroad arrived in 1842. According to the City's 1976 Keller Report, the neighborhood had developed sufficiently by 1847 for sidewalks to be built along Decatur Street. The report also notes that Decatur Street and its associated side streets (Charles, Fulton, and Glenn) contained the largest concentration of mid-nineteenth century architecture in the City at that time. A number of these buildings have since been removed, due to deterioration. However, Decatur Street and its pleasing mix of historic commercial and residential structures offer an attractive urban setting and have significant and substantial revitalization potential.

During its early development, Decatur Heights was one of the City's premier residential neighborhoods and was home to an elite population, which is reflected in the quality and elegance of its architecture. Prominent residents include Dr. Thomas Koon and Joseph W. Footer, Vice President of the former Footer Dye Works facility located at Canal Place in Downtown Cumberland. The business, which operated in various locations from 1870 through 1937, cleaned and dyed fabrics for an enormous world-wide market that allegedly included European royalty and former Presidents of the U.S. The Footer Mansion remains as one of the neighborhood's prominent homes from the height of its development, along with the numerous other architecturally significant buildings that comprise the Decatur Heights National Register Historic District.

Another major force in the development of the Decatur Heights neighborhood was the construction of the Baltimore Turnpike or the "Bank Road," which eventually channeled into the City along Baltimore Avenue. This portion of the National Road was a privately funded eastern extension and upgrade of the route to Baltimore, which later became U.S. Route 40. Along with the eventual construction of Henderson Avenue, which basically parallels Centre and Mechanic Streets on the opposite side of the CSX railroad, the neighborhood eventually became a major gateway into the downtown area from both the north and east.

Another historic feature of the Decatur Heights neighborhood is its role in the foundation of the City's medical community. Both of the City's two original hospitals, the public Memorial Hospital and the private Sacred Heart Hospital—which were recently consolidated into the new Western Maryland Regional Medical Center on Willowbrook Road—were originally established in the Decatur Heights neighborhood. Memorial Hospital was constructed in 1892 on the current site of the 11-story Cumberland Manor apartment building, and was known by the names of Allegany Hospital and Western Maryland Hospital in earlier years.

Prior to its relocation onto Seton Drive in the 1980's, the Sacred Heart Hospital and its campus were located on the east side of Decatur Street. Only the original stone retaining wall now remains to mark its location. A portion of the site was redeveloped in 2007-08 as part of a planned townhouse development. The long presence of these hospital facilities in the neighborhood explains why Decatur Heights was attractive to medical professionals, like Dr. Koon.

Other prominent features in the neighborhood's history include the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Carver Community Center, both of which are located along Frederick Street. The Carver Community Center began its life in 1921 as the Cumberland High School—a segregated public school for the education of African Americans in Allegany County and portions of West Virginia. An influential Principal of the school worked to change the school's name to the Carver School in 1941 in honor of Dr. George Washington Carver. Both of these buildings are cultural landmarks of the African American community in Cumberland.

The Decatur Heights neighborhood is generally bounded by Baltimore Avenue, the unnamed alley behind Helen Street, and Linden Street on the north, I-68 on the east, Queen City Drive on the south, and Alley #19 on the west.

  1. City of Cumberland, Maryland, 2013 Comprehensive Plan: Neighborhood Element,, accessed June, 2015.

Decatur Heights Map

Street Names
Altamont Terrace • Baltimore Avenue • Baltimore Street • Bedford Street • Bellevue Street • Central Avenue South • Charles Street • Columbia Street • Davidson Street • Day Break Drive • Dewey Terrace • Dexter Place East • East Street • Estella Street • Footer Place • Frederick Street • Front Street North • Fulton Street • Glenn Street • Harrison Street East • Helen Street • Henderson Avenue • Howard Place • Independence Street • Interstate 68 • James Day Drive • Linden Street • Marion Street • Maryland Avenue • National Pike • Park Street • Polk Street • Reynolds Street West • Ridgeway Terrace • Route 220 • Route 40 • Sunrise Circle • Union Street East • Waverly Terrace • Waverly Terrace South • Weber Street • West View Terrace

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