When you think of archaeology, you may not think of new artifacts being found all the time here in Maryland. But according to our guest, Director of Archaeology for Anne Arundel County Stephanie Sperling, there may be things worth digging up in your backyard!
The Maryland Historic National Road, which stretches from Baltimore City to Garrett County, was listed as an Endangered Maryland site in 2014.
Throughout history, people have looked for the easiest way to get from point A to point B. The trails the American Indians blazed through Maryland eventually became some of the very roads we travel today. In 1806, Congress authorized the establishment of a road running from Cumberland, Maryland to the Ohio River as part of America’s westward expansion. This new road inspired Maryland’s General Assembly to create a turnpike from Baltimore to Cumberland. Eventually this road stretched all the way to St. Louis and today it is known as the National Road.
Standing along the National Road in Maryland are signs of the three distinct development periods of the road. During the “Heyday” of the National Road (1810-1850), the road was a primary east-west route and the gateway to the “Old Northwest.” Mileposts, mile houses, inns and taverns, and stone arch bridges from this period still line the road. Between 1850 and 1910, the National Road experienced a steady decline in use because of the expansion of canal and railroad systems. Many of this era’s associated resources are still evident including historic districts, Victorian mansions, commercial buildings and farmsteads. The Revival period for the National Road lasted from 1910 to 1960. As people set out along the National Road in their personal automobiles, there was a resurgence of construction along the road in the form of motels, scenic overlooks, tourist attractions, garages, and restaurants.
From Baltimore City to Garrett County, buildings and objects that tell the history of the National Road face numerous threats. Important commercial structures such as the Westside Super Block in Baltimore City is threatened by deterioration and demolition. In Howard County, the Doughoregan Manor (1766) is threatened by development as are many other sections of the road in western Maryland. The Jug Bridge Monument in Frederick will be relocated for a fourth time. In Allegany and Garrett Counties unregulated development and the placement of energy facilities put the historic integrity of the National Road at risk.
The US Department of Transportation designated the National Road an All-American Road in 2002 because it possess intrinsic qualities that are nationally significant. The National Road contains one-of-a-kind features and is considered a destination unto itself. Marylanders owe it to the nation and themselves to preserve buildings and sites along the National Road. This road serves as an economic development tool for many of the small communities along it. Some people say, “Build it, and they will come”, but the members of the Maryland National Road Association like to think, “Preserve it, and they will stay longer and return.”