Preserve America Community:
Oakland, Maryland (population 1,930), county seat of Garrett County, was founded in 1849 and prospered with the coming of the railroad in the early 1850s. The new rail network made it profitable to exploit Garrett Countys natural resources, and Oakland became a commercial hub in the shipment of coal and lumber.
The B&O Railroad was also instrumental in promoting Oakland and nearby areas as tourist destinations, building a series of resort hotels in the 1870s and 1880s.
With the advent of the automobile, however, these railroad-oriented resorts fell out of favor after only a few decades. This change, coupled with the decline of both the timber and coal industries, led to decades of economic decline.
Today, however, economic diversification is helping reinvigorate Oakland, and heritage tourism is playing an important role. The City of Oakland has adopted the Garrett County Heritage Plan, which was prepared as a first step toward county application as a State heritage area.
Oakland also is actively participating in the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area, non-profit based, multi-State heritage tourism initiative. An important new heritage tourism site and a focal point of Oaklands downtown revitalization is the rehabilitated B&O Railroad Station (1884). The Queen Anne-style structure is now a museum, visitor center, and retail venue for local artisans. The station is featured on the Coal Heritage Tour Maryland Scenic Byway.
Elsewhere in the community, interpretive historic markers have been installed, and part of Second Street has been designated a local preservation district to protect its 19th-century Victorian homes.
For more information
Greater Oakland Business Association: www.oaklandmd.com
Garrett County Chamber of Commerce: www.garrettchamber.com
Posted April 23, 2009