Year-In-Review: Saving History and Making A Difference

By Nicholas A. Redding

2018 will be a hard year to beat for Preservation Maryland. Thanks to the generous support of our donors, we have supported preservation at hundreds of sites across the state.

From the marshy wetlands of Dorchester County to the rugged foothills of Garrett County – it has been a banner year for preservation in Maryland. Moving forward, our job is to sustain this accelerated pace of impacts – and find new and sustainable ways to continue to grow. We are simply not content with keeping pace or holding our ground.

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Together, here’s what we accomplished in 2018 and what we have planned for the year ahead:

Investing Donor Dollars in Tangible Projects

2018 Heritage Fund Recipient, Skipjack Wilma Lee.

We’re not just talking about preservation – with your support, we’re doing it. Donor generosity in 2018 allowed us to distribute nearly $150,000 in grants to deserving projects all around the state. These grants stretched geographically from Allegany to Dorchester County and provided funding to support the preservation of resources as diverse as a threatened Skipjack to roof repairs for our friends in Friendsville.

Read about all of our 2018 Heritage Fund success stories here.

Taking a Stand for Places that Matter

This year, the need for an advocacy organization like Preservation Maryland became abundantly clear on two distinct occasions:

In July, the National Trust for Historic Preservation identified two sites in Maryland as some of the most endangered historic places in America; the Annapolis National Landmark District and the Maryland viewshed of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Both were threatened by ill-advised development – and Preservation Maryland sprang into action – supporting our national and local partners and rallying our supporters to speak out on behalf of these iconic places. The advocacy pressure generated in Charles County – where Mount Vernon’s viewshed lies – caused Dominon Energy to abandon their plans which would have marred the viewshed; a stunning turn of events and a major preservation victory.

George Washington’s View into Maryland from Mount Vernon. Photo from Mount Vernon.

In Annapolis, the proposed rezoning of the waterfront to allow for large-scale development has not been entirely scuttled, but Preservation Maryland’s joint-advocacy on that issue has generated significant local opposition and brought the mayor back to the negotiating table.

If these two advocacy efforts weren’t enough, the organization was again called upon in late August when Howard County officials announced an alarming plan that would decimate the Ellicott City historic district – bringing down nearly two dozen buildings in an effort to reduce flooding in the town. Experts agreed the demolitions would do little, if anything, to stem major flooding and as a result, Preservation Maryland led the opposition, releasing a statement and special report that was shared thousands of times. Preservation Maryland then commissioned a third party engineering review which found that flood-mitigation strategies had “not been
fully vetted by Howard County.”

In addition to the engineering review, Preservation Maryland also engaged Mason-Dixon Polling to conduct a poll of likely Howard County voters to determine public opinion on the demolition plan. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of citizens in Howard County opposed the plan and 74 percent supported alternatives to demolition. The results of the poll created yet another stir in the community – and helped to further reframe the discussion.

Ellicott City, Maryland.

Then, on Tuesday, November 6th, voters in Howard County went to the polls – and elected an entirely new county council and a new county executive. As a non-partisan organization, Preservation Maryland watched from the sidelines as the flood plan became a major campaign issue. The results of this election give new hope to the preservation community in light of Howard County Executive-elect Calvin Ball’s recent statement that his administration will “take time to evaluate all plans in progress for effectiveness and efficiency…and make a decision from there.”

Unquestionably, this will be a difficult and complex task, but Preservation Maryland stands ready to assist Howard County and the new Ball Administration in this effort. Complex problems rarely are solved by simple solutions. Ellicott City deserves a thoughtful and sophisticated planning process – and we are hopeful that process will now begin anew.

Legislative Advocacy Results in Landmark Legislation

Maryland’s historic statehouse, ca. 1772.

With the support of our donors, Preservation Maryland set out to get things done in Annapolis. As a result of those efforts we were able to accomplish the following:

And, in accomplishing all of this, we are building a bigger, broader and more diverse preservation coalition. We’re not just talking about legislation, we’re getting it passed!

Six-to-Fix Projects Making Big Differences: From Battlefields to Suffrage

South Mountain at dawn. Flickr user Ron Zanoni.

Maryland’s historic resources are as diverse as its people. For a statewide preservation group, one of our most important jobs is to work with local leaders and organizations to help find ways to save that history when it becomes threatened. Over the past year, we’ve continued to invest in our dynamic Six-to-Fix projects – and the results are really showing:

These three projects barely scratch the surface of a year’s worth of work – work that was made entirely possible by donor support.

Learn about the rest of Preservation Maryland’s dynamic Six-to-Fix projects here.

Connecting Smart Growth and Preservation: New Ways to Save

The past year also saw Preservation Maryland grow programmatically, when after many months of careful deliberation and planning, the organization absorbed the operations of 1000 Friends of Maryland and launched Smart Growth Maryland, a program of Preservation Maryland. The new program, which follows in the footsteps of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s ReUrbanism effort, is a carefully coordinated and strategically focused effort to link smart growth and historic preservation in Maryland.

Downtown Frederick has benefited from smart growth tools and investments.

Preservation is Smart Growth – but without good planning we can never hope to revitalize our state’s historic communities. The experience of Ellicott City, a historic community literally flooded by poor planning, is a stunning example of why this campaign is needed. Staff of the Smart Growth Maryland campaign is currently engaged in organizing and leading local smart growth coalitions in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles and Frederick Counties – providing Preservation Maryland with a field operation that we could have only previously dreamt about.

Learn more about Smart Growth Maryland here.

A Major Year Ahead & We Need Your Support

2018 was a banner year for Preservation Maryland. In the year ahead we have several major initiatives planned, and we are counting on your support:

And, in addition to these new efforts, we’re continuing to support and expand our existing programs and campaigns which include providing grants to deserving projects, saving threatened history at Six-to-Fix projects, drafting and passing critical legislation and advocating for threatened history.

None of this work is possible without your support. There are many causes and organizations vying for your assistance this time of the year. For me, when deciding on where to give, I try to ask the following questions:

  • Is it urgent?
  • Is it compelling?
  • Is the organization prepared to act?

We hope this year-in-review update has answered those questions – and we hope you’ll support Preservation Maryland by making a year-end gift to support our work.

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Thank you!

Nicholas A. Redding · Executive Director

Nicholas A. Redding is Preservation Maryland’s Executive Director and between announcing major organizational updates, he often blogs about Maryland and Civil War history.

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