Home of the first iron rail rolled in America
Historical Overview Historic Tidbits Beautification Committee Building & Sites

"A Hidden Treasure"

Description: The Mount Savage Historic District comprises 189 buildings, structures, and sites within a 19th and 20th century industrial community northwest of Cumberland. The resources within the district reflect the community's development as a center of the iron, coal, brick, and railroad industries from the 1830s to the early 20th century. A broad variety of domestic, commercial, religious, and industrial buildings and structures represent all phases of the town's development during this period. The town's commercial center is located on Main Street, and consists primarily of two and three-story commercial buildings dating from the turn of the 20th century. Most are of frame construction, but some are built with glazed brick, an architectural novelty produced in local brick works. A rich collection of domestic architecture is concentrated to the north, east, and southwest of the commercial area. Most of the houses are 1 1/2 or 2-story frame buildings, simplified interpretations of popular turn-of-the-20th-century styles, such as the Bungaloid-influenced houses which line New Row and Foundry Row. Late-19th century fashions are represented by notable frame Gothic houses, an Eastlake-influenced brick example, and a group of large frame Queen Anne houses. Several vertical-board duplexes overlook the former site of the Maryland and New York Iron and Coal Company operations, established in 1839. This site is currently occupied by the Mount Savage Refractories brick works, the present descendant of the fire-brick industry which has operated continuously in town since the mid 19th century.

Significance: The Mount Savage Historic District is significant for its association with the industrial development of the Western Maryland region, and for its rich architectural resources representing a wide variety of types and styles of domestic, commercial, religious, and industrial buildings and structures reflecting all phases of the community's development from the mid 19th to the early 20th centuries. The vertical-board duplexes on Old Row are especially noteworthy as possibly the earliest examples of workers' housing remaining in the region.


Mt. Savage is a surviving example of a 19th century mining town. Nestled in the hills below Big Savage Mountain are steep rows of cozy homes on narrow streets such as Old Row, New Row, Yellow Row and Zig Zag Street. Only remnants remain of the once thriving iron works, coal and clay mine industry, railroad and enameled brick industry.

In the 1780’s, the first non-native settlers, the Archibald Arnold family, established a homestead northeast of the current town along an old Indian trail known as "The Turkey Foot Trail." Arnold’s settlement operated a farm and an inn (Arnold’s Hotel), which became an overnight stop for travelers enroute to the Ohio River and other points West.

The region developed agriculturally at first and the farm community was practically self-sufficient. Iron ore and coal discoveries, however, along with the proximity of transport routes dictated Mt. Savage’s future. As English and Scotch entrepreneurs passed through the area, they saw not only the beauty of the area, but also that these beautiful mountains were invaluable in mineral wealth.

Soon the English, under the leadership of Benjamin Howell, established the Maryland and New York Iron and Coal Company. In 1839 beginning with the construction of two iron furnaces. Production was begun and eventually a railroad was built which connected Mt. Savage to Cumberland and distant domestic markets through tidewater ports. To supply the blast furnaces of the iron works, coal mines also were opened in the Mt. Savage area. In 1844, the first solid-track iron railroad rail produced in the United States was rolled here. Before that, all iron rails were imported from England.

The Iron Works Company brought hundreds of primarily Irish workers here in the 1830’s and 40’s and built twenty-two three-story houses along Old Row to accommodate the families. Other ethnic groups were also well represented as the town and industries grew. One of the remaining houses on Old Row has been restored as a historic site and museum. His Eminence Edward Cardinal Mooney was born on Old Row in 1882.

A seam of fine quality fire clay was found here leading eventually to a large brick-making industry. This endeavor led to one of Mt. Savage’s real gems, "The Castle" built in 1870 by Dr. Alexander Thompson. Andrew Ramsey of the Mt. Savage Enameled Brick Company bought the home in 1909 and it was he who altered the building to resemble Craig Castle in his native Scotland. Ramsey invented a method for firing and glazing brick which is now lost but these specialized bricks were used all over the United States including the New York subway system.

In 1853, Mt Savage was the heart of the area railroad operation. Here were located the locomotive repair shops, roundhouse and shops for building and rebuilding railroad cars and engines. Besides the industrial output of the shops, hundreds of young men were trained in a variety of trades related to the railroad industry. Most of the railway and maintenance crews lived in town. Part of the C & P railroad shops, foundry and headquarters are still standing today near Foundry Row and are used by the current brick industry of Mt. Savage. For almost 100 years, passenger service was also available, with trains arriving and departing eight times a day for Cumberland and Piedmont. With the arrival of cars and streetcars, ridership declined and the schedule was curtailed in the 1930’s and discontinued in the 1940’s.

Mt. Savage historical tidbits: Mt. Savage history includes

1. The town where the first iron rail was rolled in America in 1844 at the Mt. Savage Rail Mill.

2. The Mt. Savage Shops, where locomotives were built, some being the heaviest in the world at the time.

3. The Union Mining Company with the best coal and minerals in the East and which earned the reputation for making the best fire clay bricks in the world.

4. The town where the Rev. Stephin Badin, the first ordained priest in  America offered the first Mass in Western Maryland at Arnold’s Settlement.

5. The birthplace of the late Edward Cardinal Mooney, "one of America’s most eminent churchmen of this (20th) century."

6. The Castle, built by Andrew Ramsey, the patentee of white enamel face brick, now operated as a Bed and Breakfast.

7. Dr. F. A. G. Murray, a prestigious doctor who served the community for many years and removed a blood clot from the brain of Edward Farrell, when he was just three days old. At that time, he was the youngest baby in the world to have brain surgery.

8. The first registered nurse in Maryland, Margaret Schaffer.

9. Former home of two famous athletes, Fay Keiser, famous middleweight boxer of the 20’s and Bob Robertson, former 1st baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

10. Former home of Maj. Gen. Joseph Caldera, USAF Retired, the first American pilot to land a B17 on Guadalcanal during WWII when the island was taken from the Japanese.

11. Former home of the late great baritone John Charles Thomas who sang in the choir as a boy at the Mt. Savage Methodist Church while his father was visiting pastor there.

12. The young Franklin D. Roosevelt spent part of his summers at the home of Warren Delano (Bruce House). Delano was a principle official of the Union Mining Company.

13. A visit by the late poet, William Cullen Bryant, who deemed it, "a region of great fertility,  pleasant and green". (1780's)

MT. SAVAGE HISTORICAL SOCIETY & Beautification Committee

The Mt. Savage Historical Society seeks to preserve Mt. Savage's historical sites and rich and unique heritage. To that end we are constantly seeking to educate our community and visitors and to seek more information and artifacts to help tell our unique town story. The Beautification Committee seeks ways to improve the appearance of our town and to promote community pride. We invite you to join us in this effort to help preserve our special town and its wonderful history!

The society meets the third Sunday of every month at 7:00 p.m in the old National Bank Building, located on Main Street in Mt. Savage. It is open to the public, and everyone is welcome to attend.


Old Row Museum

    The Mt. Savage Museum is located on Old Row and is open by appointment only. . The bank and jail may also be seen at these times. e Email     1-301-876-7847

The museum is a restored 1840's miners home, one of the three remaining of the original 22 built to house the workers for the iron works, clay and coal mines, brick-works and finally the railroad. The building is a three story board and batten duplex with 6 fireplaces. The two lower rooms are of stone and wood and display how the workers may have lived. The second story has four rooms, one with a bedroom featuring a rope bed, a Victorian era room featuring the first organ from the Methodist church and two rooms that tell the story of Mt. Savage's industries and railroad. The latter two rooms feature pictures and artifacts relating to the iron, coal, brick and railroad industries. The third floor also has four rooms. One is dedicated to the religious, social and educational life of Mt. Savage. A second room relates to the earlly settlers with maps and information about the earliest days in addition to histories passed on to us from current Mt. Savageites. There is a room dedicated to the World Wars and a room dedicated to the early native Americans in this area.

   Mount Savage Bank

The Mt. Savage bank was built in 1902 and remains largely as it was 100 years ago. The interior features paneled wainscoting along the walls with wall desks supported by scrolled brackets. There is wainscoting as well along the teller's partition with marble at the base, topped with beveled glass and wrought iron teller's cages. A huge vault is constructed of locally manufactured glazed brick (Ramsey brick) and there are ornate fireplaces both in the teller's area and in the back office area. The bank was used up until 1985.

     Mount Savage Jail

The Mt. Savage jail was opened in 1912 primarily to house the town drunks. The land was donated by the Union Mining Company and the bricks were of course donated by Mr. Ramsey. The 2-celled jail is for the most part just the same as the day it opened. The story goes that the first Magistrate and his dog were asphyxiated when a new gas stove was installed. Eventually only the jail office was used for minor hearings and it was closed down in the early 70's.

The Union Mining Company Building

The Union Mining Company Building on Foundry Row is a work in progress. Mr. Robert Rost donated this building to the Historical Society three years ago and we are currently attempting to restore it. If you have any knowledge of its history we would appreciate it if you could share with us. This was a significant building in the mining and fire brick industry.

    Mt. Savage Furnace

The ruins of one of three iron furaces built around 1839 are still visible today. We are pursuing the restoration of the iron furnace area and feel that it would be a wonderful feature in addition to our other sites to tell the Mt. Savage story. Mr. Wilbert Paul is the chairman of a committe working on this project, along with Amanda Paul, Craig Hartsock and Earl Pope. We are currently awaiting a survey of the area that includes the furnace. Our hope is to have parking and a footbridge across to the museum as well. Wish us luck!


   The Castle

The Castle began as a plain stone house built in 1840 by the Union Mining Company. The Mt. Savage Enameled Brick Company doctor, Alexander Thompson in 1870, bought the Castle. Andrew Ramsay of the brick company bought it in 1909 and enlarged it to resemble Craig Castle in his native Scotland. Ramsay added an entire third floor, and a kitchen and library, which almost doubled the size of the home. The entire castle was surrounded by a sixteen-foot stonewall. Mr. Ramsay lived in the castle until the Depression, when he lost his fortune, and the house was sold. At one time, the Castle was a dance hall, brothel, casino and apartments. In 1984, it was bought and again made into a grand home and became a bed and breakfast. It is now owned and operated by Tony and Judi Perino and still used as a bed and breakfast.

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