History of Grantsville, Maryland
Grantsville, Maryland, and the National Road (also known as the Cumberland Road) have rich histories that intersect. Here’s an in-depth look at both:
Early History: Grantsville’s history dates back to the late 1700s. It was initially known as Cornucopia, owing to the richness of its natural resources. It was later named “Grantsville” in honor of Daniel Grant, a Baltimore land speculator who acquired much of the land that makes up the town today.
Growth and Development: Grantsville’s growth is intrinsically tied to its location along the National Road. The town began to flourish in the 19th century as a transportation hub, with the road bringing countless travelers and traders. This led to the establishment of inns and businesses to cater to the needs of travelers.
One of the most iconic landmarks in Grantsville is the Casselman River Bridge, built in 1813. It was the longest single-span stone arch bridge in the U.S. at the time, demonstrating the engineering marvels of the era.
Cultural Significance: Throughout the years, Grantsville maintained its charm, with many of its historic structures preserved. This has made it a notable destination for those interested in history and old-world architecture. The town’s history is rich in tales of pioneers, settlers, and traders who passed through or settled in the region.
The National Road:
Origins: Commissioned by Thomas Jefferson and begun in 1811, the National Road was the first federally funded highway in the U.S. It was initially intended to facilitate westward expansion, connecting the Potomac and Ohio Rivers. Its starting point was Cumberland, Maryland, stretching to Vandalia, Illinois.
Significance: The National Road played a pivotal role in the westward movement of people and goods. It opened up the western territories to settlers and became a major transportation route for goods. Towns and cities along the road (like Grantsville) prospered due to the influx of travelers and trade.
Engineering and Structures: Building the road was no small feat. It required significant engineering, especially for structures like bridges and culverts. As mentioned, the Casselman River Bridge in Grantsville is one of the remarkable structures from this period. Toll houses were also established along the route to collect funds for the road’s maintenance.
Decline and Revival: With the advent of the railroads in the late 19th century, the significance of the National Road began to decline. However, with the rise of automobile travel in the 20th century, it experienced a resurgence. It became part of the U.S. Highway System, known as U.S. Route 40. Today, much of the original National Road is part of the National Road Scenic Byway, preserving its history and making it a destination for tourists and history enthusiasts.
Intersection of Grantsville and the National Road:
Grantsville, with its location on the National Road, was at the crossroads of history. The town prospered due to the traffic and trade the road brought. Its inns and businesses tell tales of a time when weary travelers and traders sought respite on their journey. The preservation efforts in Grantsville, combined with the broader National Road Scenic Byway, serve as a testament to the intertwined histories of the town and the road.
Today, visitors to Grantsville can not only enjoy its rich history but also its natural beauty, given its proximity to areas like the Casselman River and the nearby state parks. The legacy of the National Road remains an integral part of Grantsville’s identity.