Cumberland became a major Western Maryland transportation center upon its connection to the B&O Railroad in 1842 and the completion of the C&O Canal in 1850. These improved transportation routes fostered the explosion of the area's burgeoning coal industry. Cumberland was also Maryland's second largest manufacturing center in the mid-19th century. The community's economic prosperity and growth in population during this period fostered the desire and financial means to construct buildings that conveyed the town's importance and sophistication. The majority of buildings were constructed from1890 to 1920, including major banks, civic buildings, and department stores. The downtown area evolved as a dense collection of large scale buildings, three or more stories tall, and generally brick, with stone, metal or wood decorative trim. Many of these have been altered only minimally, primarily with the replacement of street level signs and entrances. Notable buildings include City Hall, the Bell Tower, Public Safety Building, B'er Chayim Temple, Second National Bank, Third National Bank, Fort Cumberland Hotel, Embassy Theatre and Rosenbaum's Department Store.
In the late 1970s, Baltimore Street was paved with bricks and became a pedestrian mall. Two buildings, 42-46 Baltimore Street and 118 Baltimore Street were successfully restored in the 1980s utilizing the Federal historic preservation tax credit. In 1997, the district was recognized as a Main Street Maryland community.
The heart of the Downtown Cumberland Historic District is the intersection of Baltimore and Centre Sts., bounded by their intersections with Bedford St. to the north, George St. on the east, Harrison St. to the south, and the Western Maryland railroad tracks to the west. Most of the buildings are either commercial or civic and are open to the public during normal business hours. Motorcoach tours and carriage rides through the district can be arranged through Westmar Tours at 301-777-0293 or 1-800-336-7963.