After Congress authorized the National Road in 1806, Josiah Frost bought a tract of land lying across the decided route and set about to selling lots. His son, Mesbach, built a house on Lot 1 and settled with his new bride in June, 1812. The stagecoach line arrived in 1818 and the the Frosts rented their frame house to the Stockton Stagecoach Company, which adapted it for a staging tavern and called it Highland Hall. A village of supporting services rose slowly around the hostelry.
The settlement was originally called Mt. Pleasant by George McCulloh who had built in the area back in 1806 but since there was already one Mount Pleasant in Maryland, the name of the town was changed to “Frostburg” by the government when a post office was established there in 1820.
The National Road may have put Frostburg on the map but it was the railroad that brought prosperity. The iron horse arrived in the late 1840s making it possible to ship coal, that had first been discovered in the region back in 1782, in large quantities through the difficult terrain for the first time. The first mined coal in Western Maryland was taken from a location about a mile and one-half from Frostburg but The first shipment east by wagon was not made until 1820. There were also large brickyards and lumber mills in the area.
It was during the height of the coal mining period, between 1870 and 1915, that Frostburg developed most of its major institutions. The newspaper and churches were established during this period as well as the school system (1868), the fraternal organizations, banks and many local businesses. The Fire Department came into being in 1878, the water company began operation in 1884, and by 1895, both gas and electricity were available to the citizens of Frostburg. Public transportation to Cumberland and Westernport was established in 1902 by an electric railway and the Miners’ Hospital was built in 1913. A major factor in Frostburg’s economy was the growth of the State College. Originally legislated as State Normal School #2 in 1898, the facility was intended to train teachers for the public schools of the State.
Like many a Maryland town, the streetscape of the 21st century was greatly impacted by fires in the previous centuries. On September 5, 1874, a Saturday, fire broke out in the loft of Beall & Koch on Main Street, opposite of today’s St. Michael’s Church. There was no fire department in Frostburg at the time and at least 40 businesses were lost that day. A major conflagration in December 1917 burned away most of the commercial district. Many of the buildings that line Frostburg’s Main Street today were built to replace those damaged in that blaze and seem to march down the street in a unified brick guard against flames.
Our walking tour will eventually spend most of its time along the old National Road (today’s Main Street) but first we’ll walk through the residential part of town to the south, on Frost Avenue, where we’ll find some of the most consistently high-style homes in Frostburg between Broadway and Pine streets...
56 Frost Avenue
After departing from their original home on the National Road, Meshach and Catherine Frost moved to a farmhouse somewhere in the vicinity of the current day Frostburg State University campus to raise a family. This substantial brick house was built in 1846 to convey the status of Frostburg’s first family. When Catherine passed away in 1876 none of the children wanted to live in the house and it passed out of the family. After that the house spent time as a summer hotel, picking up the Second Empire mansard roof in the process, before becoming a private residence again. In 1903 the three-acre property was purchased by the Hitchins brothers, Adam and Owen, for $7,500. The Hitchins came to Frostburg in 1855 from Wales and entered the meat supply business. After a half century of investing in mining and timber and banking they were now the town’s dominant family. In the second half of the 20th century the house passed into the Hafer family and did duty as a funeral home.The development of Frost Avenue occurred subsequent to the addition of the area to the Town in 1871; the houses reflect this period, predominantly constructed in the Queen Anne style with multiple gables, projecting bays, fish-scale shingles and broad porches. Many are set back from the street on spacious, shaded lots.
WALK WEST ON FROST AVENUE. TURN RIGHT ON CHESTNUT STREET. TURN RIGHT ON MAIN STREET.
73 West Main Street
William Ward Jr. was a Frostburg lad; his father William, Sr. came to Allegany County around 1790 to oversee the land holdings of Normand Bruce. Ward the younger became involved in hauling coal to Cumberland at the age of 15 and his enterprise led to acquiring a coal mine, a grist mill, a sawmill and perhaps a brick-making operation in his twenties. He built this symmetrical Italianate home with broad cross gables and deep, bracketed cornices in the 1870s, shortly before he died. At the time West Main Street was acquiring some of Frostburg’s most distinctive houses, built in the architectural fashion of the day. The house is of particular interest for its Colonial Revival detailing that reflects an early 1900s renovation by subsequent owners. Once one of Frostburg’s showcase houses, the Ward Mansion has sat vacant of late.
W.E.G. Hitchens House
66 West Main Street
The Hitchens House, completed in 1891, is a Victorian Gothic structure. A steeply pitched gable roof with a slight kick at the eaves and narrow vergeboards with scroll-cut ends emphasizes the two-story building’s tall, vertical proportions. All windows are tall and narrow and had colored-glass transoms when built. Inside it featured an octagonal parlor with pressed oak inlays, high ceilings, stained glass and hot and cold running water. In its day, the Hitchens House was considered the best house in Town.
Nelson Beall House
49 West Main Street
Captain Nelson Beall - he earned the moniker “Captain” in 1860 when he commanded the Frostburg Blues - was one of the wealthiest men in Allegany County when he built this house in 1875-76. Although by this time he was one of the founders and directors of the Second National Bank of Cumberland, Beall designed and helped build the house himself, sparing no expense in its construction. As a youth growing up in Frostburg, he had apprenticed in the carpenter’s trade. The building is of American common brick construction and consists of two-and-one-half stories, five bays wide in an irregular T-shaped block. The mansard roof supported by brackets was the first ever seen in Frostburg. In addition to this property, Beall owned estates in Texas and Florida. It was in Florida that he fell sick and died in 1885 at the age of 72. Grief-stricken, his family shipped the body back to Frostburg. It was only after an elaborate funeral worthy of one of the town’s most important men that his will was opened. Among his last wishes were the stipulation that he be buried in a plain pine casket not to cost more than $20 and “I will add that if I should die from home in a distant State, in such case I wish my remains to be there interred and never to be taken up and returned to my native home.”
Frostburg United Methodist Church
48 West Main Street
The Methodist congregation, organized in 1832, has occupied the same site longer than any other in Frostburg. A stone church, built in 1835, was replaced in 1855 by a frame building. The present red brick Gothic church dates from 1871 after the second church was sold and moved to Keyser, West Virginia. It has retained much of its external features, including the Town’s highest tower, save for the rear wing which was added in 1947 to serve as an education building. Stained glass windows memorialize many of the town’s earliest citizens.
United States Post Office
37 West Main Street
This is an excellent example of the Federal government’s attempt to bring significant architecture to America’s small towns in the years before World War II. Here, Frostburg was given a one-story, five-bay Neoclassical red brick building with limestone keystones. The building sports a low hipped roof and Romanesque-style windows dominate the facade.
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
34 West Main Street
The history of this congregation began on August 14, 1808 when two dozen people joined in a communion service in the New Church, a log structure on the edge of what is now called the Prichard Farm. The original St. Paul’s Church was a white frame structure that took ten years to build because of the Civil War. Then it was completely destroyed - as was much of the town - by fire. The rebuilding of the current red brick church finally happened in 1879. The St. Paul’s parsonage next door, with its metal roof intact, has been renovated to its 1872 appearance.
11 West Main Street
The Gladstone Hotel brought the big city to Frostburg in 1897, built by the Fuller Brothers for the Hitchins family. Bellboys greeted the guests and a New York chef impressed them with his culinary skills. There were a hundred rooms, a café and a barbershop. The fifth floor observatory allowed guests a view of the beautiful countryside. Tennis courts and a petting farm provided recreation and entertainment for guests and their children. The hotel was revived by the advent of the automobile, and its purchase by William Gunter. Today, the Gunter Hotel still welcomes travelers along the Historic National Road.
Old Opera House/Paul’s Hall
22 East Main Street
The Italianate-influenced Old Opera House was built in 1876 by the architect J.T.H. Paul, son of the original proprietor, Thomas Paul. It was built as a public hall and included four store rooms, a restaurant, office space, several apartments and the second floor theatre that hosted famous actors and touring companies of the day. On the outside the opera house looks very much as it did in 1876, but the elaborate second-floor theatre with its sunken footlights and movable stage scenery is long gone.
33 East Main Street
In the 1890s this building was a bakery and candy shop, with everything made fresh on the premises. In 1906 the lobby area was converted into a nickleodeon called Dreamland where patrons could view short one-reel films for a nickel. In 1912 the Spates brothers bought the building and added a fifty-foot auditorium behind it, rechristening their entertainment emporium “The Palace.” When it was enlarged and redecorated by a firm from Baltimore, The palace was hailed as the most beautiful movie house in Maryland. The Spates family operated the theatre until 1981 when The Palace went the way of most small-town Main Street movie houses. After standing empty for several years it re-emerged as a community-owned auditorium.
St. Michael’s Church
28-56 East Main Street
This is the site where Meshach Frost (1787–1864) and his wife Catherine (1792–1876), founders of Frostburg, built their first home in 1812. As the tavern Highland Hall, the building later accommodated in a day as many as 300 guests and 40 stagecoaches traveling the National Road.
Here on this historic site now stand the Gothic-influenced St. Michael’s Rectory (1871), church (1868), school (1891), and convent (1906). The church is one of the few structures in town to retain much of its original external features with the exception of the altered spire which was formerly Frostburg’s tallest. It was removed for safety reasons as the town is noted for high winter winds. A monument, erected in 1877, marks the graves of the Frosts who were buried here in 1876.
74 East Main Street
Andrew Ramsay, formerly of Scotland, founded the nearby Mount Savage Enamel Brick Company to take advantage of a process he invented for applying glaze to bricks in a single firing process. These bricks, which came in various shapes and colors, were considered the finest and most durable in the country. They were shipped all over the Western Hemisphere. Their uses included lining tunnels and subways. The enamel bricks were used to line chimneys, with the glazed side facing in, because their smooth quality prevented the accumulation of soot and made cleaning easy. Occasionally buildings would be constructed of these glazed bricks, such as the commercial Fisher Building. Ramsay was known to be an eccentric around Mount Savage; he constructed a Scottish castle to live in and never shared the secret of his firing process, taking it to this grave.
TURN LEFT ON DEPOT STREET.
Cumberland & Pennsylvania Depot
19 Depot Street
The Cumberland & Pennsylvania Railroad was completed in 1863 as a short-line mountain railroad to serve the coal industry. It evolved into the lifeblood of the region; in its heyday eight passenger trains a day plied the 31-mile line from Cumberland to Mount Savage and down the western border of Allegany County. This Queen Anne-style depot was built by the Cumberland and Pennsylvania Railroad in 1891 served both freight and passenger trains. Two passenger trains ran daily from Cumberland to Piedmont with a stop in Frostburg until 1942 when passenger service was discontinued. The long frame building was one of four stations on the C & PA line and is believed to have been designed by E. Francis Baldwin, who crafted over 100 stations for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The depot was renovated in 1989 as a station for the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad with shops and a restaurant.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO MAIN STREET AND TURN LEFT.
126 East Main Street
The first log house in the area was built on this site in 1806. George McCulloh is believed to have built an early mid-19th century structure that is incorporated in the present building that acquired its two-story Doric columns and Neoclassical airs in 1912. The Elks purchased the building as a lodge in 1940.
144 East Main Street
The Hocking House was built between 1855 and 1858 on land that was part of an estate belonging to Robert Clarke, one of the original settlers in the area. Clarke owned most of what would become Frostburg. John Taylor built the brick house outside the town boundaries although it now sits near the center of town. The name that would carry forward with the house was not Taylor, nor McCarty who next owned it or the Kane family who lived here from 1865 to 1901. It would be the musical Hocking family who lived here from 1901 to 1942. After 1942 the transitional Greek Revival (central gable pediment, recessed main entrance with horizontal transom) and Italianate (square shape, heavily bracketed eaves, tall and narrow windows) styled house became a clubhouse and then housing for Frostburg State University.
United Church of Christ
158 East Main Street
This is the oldest church building in Frostburg, begun on September 19, 1846 by the English Lutherans and sold to the German Lutherans in 1865. The tower and entrance date from 1880, when the roof was raised to accommodate stained glass windows, imported from Germany.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS ALONG THE OLD NATIONAL ROAD TO BROADWAY STREET AND TURN LEFT.
This was the home of successive doctors in town; Joseph Getzendanner and a Dr. DeNaouley.
St. John’s Episcopal Church
In the early days St. John’s was served by the assistant rector of Emmanuel Parish, Cumberland, who also had charge of the mission churches in Mount Savage and St. Paul’s, Eckhart. In 1854 the lot on which the present church is built was purchased by the Reverend John W. Nott. An early private school occupied the site, which was moved on rollers and turned 90 degrees to become the parish house, until the 1920s when it was replaced. The cornerstone for the present stone church was laid July 23, 1890 and the two-foot thick walls were finished in 1891. The whole building was completed at a cost of $6,300.00 - furnishings and all. No tower, however. The present tower was dedicated in 1926 as a memorial to the Reverend Alexander C. Haverstick, who was responsible for the building of the church.
This house was built in 1853 by a daughter of the Frost founders and her husband, Charles Hamill, who was at one time superintendent of the Frost mine. It was originally of frame construction with a brick veneer added later. Perhaps the most notable feature of the house is its porch that protrudes from the first story of the main facade and features a pilastered and semi-elliptical arched construction. The entire porch is topped by a balcony with battlement ends. Lord Napier, British Ambassador to the United States, rented it for the summer of 1857, and is said to have brought his butler, as well as his family, with him. Brick veneer was added later.
TURN RIGHT ON FROST STREET TO RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.