CUMBERLAND — An 82-year-old plaque dedicated to the founders of Rosenbaum Brothers Department Store has found its way home.
The plaque, which was thought to be lost since the early 1970s, was recently located online for sale, leading to its ultimate return to Cumberland and 118 Baltimore St., where it had hung following its dedication in 1940.
Two Cumberland business owners, Chris Hendershot and Garrett Eagan, purchased the Rosenbaum store building, which was last occupied by M&T Bank, last year. Hendershot and Eagan are working on a $5 million renovation, converting the building for mixed residential and commercial use.
The new owners also wanted to rebrand the five-story building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. They announced in September that they had renamed the building The Rosenbaum, paying homage to the once-loved department store. Constructed in 1898, the building housed Rosenbaums for over seven decades.
Descendants of the Rosenbaum family were invited to visit the former landmark on the downtown mall earlier recently to see the renovation work firsthand. During the visit, they were also able to witness the return of the plaque that many feared was lost forever.
The story of the Cumberland department store dates back nearly 175 years.
Before the Rosenbaum brothers arrived in Cumberland from Germany, they had relatives who had already immigrated to America. Their uncles Henry and Selig Adler had moved to the U.S. from Germany in 1848 and opened a small dry goods store at 37 N. Mechanic St., where the Maryland Theater would ultimately be constructed.
Just after the Civil War in the late 1860s, the Adlers moved their store to 78 Baltimore St., which would later become McCrory’s store. In 1872, with no sons to take over, the Adlers invited Simon and Sussman Rosenbaum, who had immigrated to the U.S. a few years prior, to join their business.
The Adler brothers retired in 1878 and moved to Baltimore, but first arranged for ownership to be transferred to the Rosenbaum brothers.
In 1898, the Rosenbaums celebrated the 50th anniversary of the store at 78 Baltimore St. by contracting to have a new five-story building constructed to house the growing business. The store was moved there in 1899.
The brothers had gone from a two-story 23-foot storefront to a 130-foot front with floor-to-ceiling glass stretching for four stories. The new store grew in leaps and bounds and became the largest department store between Pittsburgh and Baltimore, employing 200 people at its peak.
Ricky Krall, great-granddaughter of Simon Rosenbaum, said the building has changed since her days there.
“It is really different now because now it’s an atrium,” she said. “When we were there, the floors were there. Four floors were the merchandise, and the fifth floor is where the merchandise came in, and they would open it and bring it down to the floors. There was a freight elevator at the back entrance.”
Presented by store employees, the plaque was dedicated in honor of Simon Rosenbaum (1846-1922) and brother Sussman Rosenbaum (1851-1931), who are pictured on it. The inscription reads: “In honor of the founders of Rosenbaum Bros., whose wisdom and industry guided the successful progress of Cumberland’s foremost store for many years after its founding in 1848.”
Krall, who lives in Fallston, grew up in Cumberland and worked at the store, which remained open until 1971. Rosenbaum Brothers closed after the Celanese, PPG (Pittsburgh Plate Glass) and the Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. either closed or cut staff, resulting in a large loss of jobs in the city’s once thriving industrial base.
Krall remembers seeing the plaque.
“When you walked out of the store, it was always on the right-hand side by the front doors where the cosmetics were,” she said. “The employees had it made for the Rosenbaums.”
The discovery that the plaque still existed was made by Mark Carder. The city resident collects historic memorabilia and said he was browsing on eBay one evening about 12 years ago when he came across it for sale by a man in New York.
“How it ended up in upstate New York, I don’t know,” said Carder, who bid on the plaque and ultimately won. “I didn’t know this person who had it.”
Carder wasn’t sure what to do with the store’s plaque. “I thought I would give it to the [Allegany] museum, but I wasn’t sure what would happen to it, so I kept it,” he said.
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Ultimately Carder and Krall became friends online.
“I had posted an image of it on Facebook, and they got in touch with me,” Carder said. “I talked to her about giving the plaque to her, then the next thing I know I was getting a call from Garrett [Eagan].”
‘Icing on the cake’
Carrie Parker of Baltimore, a great-great-granddaughter of Simon Rosenbaum, said the building’s renaming and finding the plaque has brought her family together.
“We all are so moved by the store being named Rosenbaum and the fact of Mark in conjunction with all of this happening. ... I can’t tell you how amazing it is,” she said. “My mother was Louise ‘Weezie’ Rosenbaum. She kept everything about the store. Both of my parents [recently] passed away, so I have been going through all of the pictures and things, so this is icing on the cake. The timing of everything is serendipitous. We are thrilled how this has all come together.
“We have vivid memories of the Cumberland. Things have changed, but I think if they could resurrect the downtown, I think it would be a big shot in the arm for Cumberland. I would like to see it thrive, and it would help Cumberland, too.”
The Rosenbaums are planning to attend the grand opening of the building, which is expected in 2023 or early 2024.
“It brings a lot of memories back for our family,” Krall said. “I only wish they could see this.”