Photo credit: Orlando Ridout V , 01/1971

Property Name: Public Safety Building
Date Listed: 4/13/1973
Inventory No.: AL-IV-A-015
Location: Frederick & N. Liberty Street, Cumberland, Allegany County

Description: Constructed between 1902 and 1904, the Public Safety Building faces north with a five bay wide facade, 3 stories high. The upper stories of the Classical Revival building are of brick, rising from a monumental stone base. The three center bays are defined by a slightly projecting pavilion with four engaged Ionic columns on the second and third floors, topped by a full entablature and a large pediment containing a bullseye window. The first story features doorways with stone voussiors and keystones in the three central bays and segmentally arched window openings with 6/6 sash in the end bays. Second floor windows are 6/6 sash while third floor windows are short 3/6 sash, all ornamented with keystones in the stone lintels. The corners of both the pavilion and the building itself are defined by stone quoins which contrast with the brickwork. The entire building has a full entablature with a dentiled cornice.

Significance: The Public Safety Building, or Old Post Office, is, according to local tradition, the sole example of late-19th/early-20th century Georgian Revival architecture in the county. The building, originally the United States Courthouse and Post Office, was built during the tenure of James Knox Taylor (1859-c. 1929) as Supervising Architect for the U.S. Treasury, the department responsible for the construction of federal buildings. From 1897 to 1912 while Taylor was Supervising Architect, his office designed approximately 300 structures. Taylor's buildings, as a rule, are Neo-Classical or Neo-Georgian, and echo the eclectic tone of American architecture at the turn of the 20th century. Although perhaps not as well known as his contemporaries, Daniel Burnham or Stanford White, his architectural career merits more attention that it has received. Taylor's appointment as Supervising Architect, the sheer volume of his work for the federal government, and his tenure at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as Chairman of the Architecture Department, testify to his rank among architects of his time. The post office on Church Circle in Annapolis, another of Taylor's works, reflects the same architectural style as his Cumberland Post Office, built in 1902-1904. The building was opened in mid-1904 and was the sixth location of the Cumberland Post Office, which first opened in a log building in 1795.