Chapel Hill Historic District
Cumberland, Allegany County
The Chapel Hill Historic District is a mixed-use residential/commercial/institutional historic district of 810 contributing resources on 145 acres located on the southeast side of Cumberland, southeast of the city’s central business district. The trackage of the CSX Railroad (formerly the B & O) lying immediately south and west of the district’s southern and western boundaries. The two principal thoroughfares are Virginia Avenue (originally Virginia Lane), which contains the commercial district of the neighborhood, and Grand Avenue, which contains a nearly unbroken string of double houses from East Oldtown Road at the north to Industrial Boulevard at the south. The topography of the district rises gently from the south, with St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church on the highest point in the district at the head of Pennsylvania Avenue at Oldtown Road. Few of the buildings predate 1900, the vast majority having been built between 1900 and 1910. Approximately 10% were built between World Wars I and II, and the balance postdate World War II. The architecture of the district includes an unusually strong concentration of vernacular residences, including an extraordinary collection of double houses built for the industrial working class of the city at the turn of the 20th century. The majority of the district’s domestic architecture is of wood and a smaller proportion of brick; most of the district’s few commercial buildings are of brick. Many houses and some wood commercial buildings were clad in insul-brick, which, while not an original finish, nonetheless was installed well within the period of significance of the district and contributes to the architectural character of the neighborhood. A particularly distinctive construction technique in the district--and one found in other areas of Cumberland as well--involves the use of brick laid in stylized Flemish bond with paired glazed headers, giving a unique appearance to otherwise modest homes. A few historic buildings in the district are built of concrete block--smooth-dressed, rock-faced, and rusticated--which also appears in foundations of residential and commercial buildings in the district. The majority of the buildings in the Chapel Hill Historic District are two stories in height and of a conventional rectangular form. Roof forms are typical of most neighborhoods which developed during the period of significance of this district. Most of the district's commercial buildings along Virginia Avenue are generally flat-roofed or have shed roofs which slope gently from front to back. Some neighborhood "corner store" commercial buildings are more residential in character and have front-facing or laterally oriented gable roofs. Residential buildings have gabled and hipped roofs as well as front-to-rear sloping shed roofs. A series of locally distinctive stylized French Second Empire-style buildings have Mansard roofs with dormers and the district's Dutch Colonial Revival-style buildings employ gambrel roofs. On nearly every street in the district are homes with gable roofs--front facing or laterally oriented--whose pediments are clad in slate. This appears to be the hallmark of a local builder from the years of the initial development of the district and World War I. Relatively few architectural styles are represented. The earliest two houses date from 1840; one is in Federal style and the other constructed of stone. The vast majority--fully 90%--of the buildings in the district are vernacular in character and represent no particular architectural style. The 1891 Holy Cross Episcopal Church represents the Shingle Style. It is for this church that the neighborhood was named, since, at the time of its construction, its spire was the dominant feature of the skyline and easily visible from downtown Cumberland. A few houses and commercial buildings in the district display Italianate features. There are also a few examples of the French Second Empire, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival, Bungalow, and American Foursquare styles. The Gothic Revival style was the preferred design mode for the district's churches. Viewed in its entirety, this historic district consists of an architecturally cohesive, primarily residential area which is situated on a grid of streets dominated by double houses of wood and brick, and anchored by a small commercial district.
The Chapel Hill Historic District is significant for its architecture, as a strong, locally significant and unusually dense concentration of primarily residential buildings built generally between 1900 and the 1940s. While not dominated by properties representing specific styles of architecture, the district contains a distinctive collection of vernacular single-family houses as well as dozens of double houses erected by local entrepreneurs as housing for the workers in local industries, particularly in the glass industry and the railroad, which were driving forces in the city's economy throughout the district's period of significance and whose operations were located within walking distance of the neighborhood. The period of significance begins c. 1840, representing the approximate date of construction of the earliest building in the district and ends c. 1950, a date by which the district's basic appearance had been established. The district retains integrity in its physical qualities, associative values, design features, and specific aspects of construction which date from its period of significance.