Little Crossings, which started as a small Amish and Mennonite community, is a historic square mile in Garrett County. (Lloyd Fox and Matt Bylis/Baltimore Sun)

In a cabin built in the 1750s, just a few hundred feet from a 201-year-old stone bridge across the quiet Casselman River, a man sits at a slab of a wooden table, an array of carving tools spread before him.

The rush of traffic from nearby Alternate U.S. 40, also known as Route 40, does not bother Gary Yoder. Nor does the "thump-thump-thump" of the weaving loom from the cabin next door.

The most celebrated crafter of wooden bird sculptures in Western Maryland is too engrossed to notice.

"What I do is more like an addiction than a career — a healthy one, I hope," he says, glancing up from a hawk feather he's carving from a piece of basswood.

Yoder has been practicing his craft at the Spruce Forest Artisans Village — a cluster of working artists' studios a mile from downtown Grantsville — for 42 of his 55 years.

The village, with its eight artists working in vintage cabins, sits in a larger glade known as Little Crossings, a 10-acre neck of the woods in Garrett County that once helped America bridge old and new, and where past and present still intersect.

On one side, the Casselman River Bridge, 80 feet high and 354 feet long, was once a key link on the National Road, the gravelly thoroughfare across which hundreds of thousands of settlers started traveling in the early 1800s.

On the other side stands the Penn Alps Restaurant, a sprawling log hostelry that started life in 1818 as a stagecoach stop along that road and that still attracts plenty of U.S. 40 travelers, as well as devoted local residents.

See more pictures from U.S. 40.

Yoder has never lived more than a mile or so from his workplace. He has never wanted to.

He has met authors, filmmakers and politicians from across the country, along with the families and tourists who stop by just about every day.

"The whole world comes through here," he says.

It's doubtful George Washington was pondering art when he passed through on June 19, 1755. Then 23 and an aide to a British general, he was helping lead an expedition toward an enemy stronghold during what would become known as the French and Indian War.

Half a century later, in 1806, President Thomas Jefferson signed a bill that gave birth to the National Road. It started in Cumberland 25 miles to the east, passed through here and reached into Pennsylvania and beyond.

Architects erected the bridge — then the longest stone span in America — in 1813. Today it's a well-preserved National Historic Landmark in the midst of a small park.

On a recent afternoon, the songs of wrens and warblers filled its four acres.

"How could I ever get bored making birds?" Yoder asks.

Sometimes the music can be hard to hear. Alternate U.S. 40, a two-lane road known around here as the National Pike, is the asphalt successor to the National Road. It's just on the other side of a grove of trees, and there's an intermittent whir of passing traffic.

Across a parking lot, a visitor enters Penn Alps for other local delights, including the roast pork and slow-cooked bacon and beans on the menu.

Nearly 200 years ago, the Tavern Room, with its double fireplace, pegged beams and mud-mortared chimney, was the heart of Little Crossings Inn, a stagecoach stop that served the National Road.