Canal Place Heritage Area – Maryland’s First Certified Heritage Area
Maryland’s Heritage Areas are locally designated and State certified regions where public and private partners make commitments to preserving historical, cultural and natural resources for sustainable economic development through heritage tourism. In 1993, Canal Place, located in Western Maryland, became the first such designated area in the State.
Located at the western end of the C&O Canal in Cumberland, Canal Place features the rich heritage of the canal basin and the surrounding area. Since the completion of the Canal Place Management Plan in 1996, the Authority has undertaken major rehabilitation and restoration projects. Some projects have been completed and others are in development.
The original management plan for Canal Place, written in 1996, was updated in 2002 and again in 2013. The 2013 update outlines the priority goals and projects for Canal Place over the next five years. The theme of “Crossroads of Transportation” was chosen for the Heritage Area due to its importance in the history and creation of Canal Place. Cumberland’s role as a transportation hub began before the colonial period. Native Americans followed trails from the Potomac Valley into the Allegheny Highlands. During the French and Indian War, British General Edward Braddock upgraded one of the trails into a wagon road in his effort to win Fort Duquesne and the Ohio Country. In the nineteenth century, the first major federally funded highway, the Historic National Road, linked Cumberland with Wheeling and the Ohio River in 1818. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad arrived in 1842, while the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal reached Cumberland eight years later.
In the twentieth century, the Western Maryland Railway was completed to Cumberland in 1907, while US 40 and later Interstate 68 supplanted the Historic National Road. Today, the process has returned to its trail roots as multi-use recreational trails along historic transportation corridors linking Cumberland with Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh, PA. A number of sub-themes were created as well including Natural Resources, Cultural Resources, Recreational Resources, Nation Building/Industrial Revolution.