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The County Courthouses and Records of Maryland -- Part 1: The Courthouses
Volume 545, Page 5   View pdf image (33K)
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the courthouse was in the neighborhood of $65,000.14 With this money the courthouse was
enlarged by twenty feet in depth on the south side, the courtroom was removed to the second
floor, the offices of the clerk of court and register of wills were enlarged and a room for the
county commissioners was provided. In addition, the appearance of the building, both inside
and out, was improved and beautified. The architect employed for this purpose was Frank E.
Davis of Baltimore, and the finished building, to judge from surviving pictures, was hand-
some and a credit to him and to the county.

Unfortunately, this fine structure was not destined to survive. At 1:30 of a cold morning,
January 5, 1893, the cry of "fire! fire!" was heard in the streets of Cumberland, and soon
the telltale glow which lighted up the neighboring mountains proved the cry was not false.
It was the courthouse burning, and nothing that the citizenry or the firefighters of Cumber-
land were able to do could stem its course until the courthouse was totally gutted. Only the
vaults in the offices of the clerk of court and the register of wills survived.15

Third Courthouse at Cumberland

After the fire the county court found a home in the council chamber of the city hall; while
the clerk of the court, the register of wills and the county commissioners took up temporary
quarters in the Allegany County Academy and in the adjacent house. Work began almost
immediately to clear the ground and to begin construction on a new seat of justice. Authoriza-
tion to issue bonds for the courthouse had to wait, however, until the next meeting of the
General Assembly, early in 1894. At that time an act was passed authorizing the county
commissioners of Allegany County to issue coupon bonds in the sum of $100,000 "to provide
the means for building and furnishing the new courthouse for said county."16 Plans for the
new building were drawn by a local architect, Wright Butler, and construction was in the
hands of Garber Brothers, "a firm of contractors from the South." The total cost of the
structure was $97,000. According to Thomas and Williams,

The laying of the corner stone of the new Court House took place on the 5th of
October, 1893, and was accompanied with appropriate public ceremonies. The formal
laying of the stone was in charge of the Masonic fraternity, whilst nearly all the civic
and fraternal societies of the county took part in the brilliant parade which preceded it.
And thus has Allegany County built her fourth Temple of Justice.17

This courthouse is a typical late Victorian public building, ornate and undistinguished in
style, but solidly constructed of red brick and native limestone. It measures one hundred and
eighty feet in length by one hundred and twenty-five in width by seventy-five in height,
excluding the square steepled tower. It is situated on the site of old Fort Cumberland, over-
looking the Potomac on one side and Wills Creek on the other. It has changed but little
since it was first built. In 1916, $15,000 was appropriated for an addition to the office of the
clerk of court.18 In 1925, the quarters of the county commissioners were enlarged and addi-
tional space was released thereby for the use of various other officers.19 The sum of $50,000
was authorized for this purpose.

14 Op. cit., p. 131.

15 Accounts of this disastrous fire are to be found in the
Orphans' Court Proceedings, Liber 1, p. 438, and with great
vividness in the Cumberland Sunday Times of January S, 1893.

16 Ch. 249.
17 Op. cit., pp. 131-32.
18 Ch. 480.
19 Ch. 513, Acts of 1924.

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The County Courthouses and Records of Maryland -- Part 1: The Courthouses
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