Archive for January, 2012
Below is a round-up of news articles on preservation and heritage issues in Maryland and beyond.
Canal Place faces tough questions – Cumberland Times-News 01-17-2012
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY
Saving a ‘hidden treasure’ – Baltimore Sun 01-13-2012
A Click in Time – The Urbanite 01-30-2012
St. Peter the Apostle Church to be sold by archdiocese – Baltimore Sun 01-27-2012
Demolition by neglect? – Baltimore Brew 01-11-2012
Senator Theatre still awaiting word on historic tax credits – Baltimore Sun 01-03-2012
State helps protect Baltimore archives – Baltimore Sun 01-02-2012
PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY
Prince George’s files to demolish historic school – The Gazette 01-26-2012
Battle of Bladensburg monument molding its way to fruition – The Gazette 01-16-2012
In path to building outlet mall, historic site stripped of protections – The Gazette 01-06-2012
Hyattsville heritage group hopes to market county milestones – The Gazette 01-04-2012
New chapter in history, preservation starts for Fort Washington district – Washington Post 01-03-2012
ST. MARY’S COUNTY
MET and Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust Preserve Historic Working Farm in St. Mary’s County – The Baynet 01-23-2012
Poplar Hill Mansion wins Heritage Award, hires curator – Delmarva Now 01-25-2012
If you have a news article on a preservation-related issue you wish to add to our monthly news round-up, please send the link to me at email@example.com.
What if I told you that you could buy a very nice house in a good neighborhood for $10,000? You would want to know more, right?
Well in the town of Salisbury here on the Eastern Shore there is such a house. It’s a 1905 Queen Anne style Victorian, which sits on the corner of a very nice street and is a contributing structure in the Newtown Historic District. The house is surrounded by others from the same general period and frames a block that ends at wonderful house museum known as Poplar Hill Mansion. All in all it’s a very lovely intact streetscape and a neighborhood where most of us would be happy to live. I had the opportunity to tour this house a few days ago and was impressed by the quality of the construction and the high degree of original features that remain, right down to the doorknobs. What’s the kicker you ask? Well, the house is condemned, and yes it did suffer a minor fire. Condemned you say? It sounds awful! A real money pit. According to local papers, it’s a blight on the community. Still interested?
The truth be told, this is a great house with a lot of potential and it’s far more valuable to the neighborhood as a restored structure than as a vacant lot or as a new parking lot. The damage from the fire was primarily in one section of the building and structurally its still sound and very salvageable. Sadly, the local HDC voted to approve the demolition of this structure without promoting the available options for saving it. The problem is that all too often people are willing to quickly right off these challenging buildings as bad business decisions when in fact they are very often just the opposite. Buildings like this one, when properly rehabilitated, will stabilize if not improve the property values of those around it. Take it away and what do you have? A vacant lot that no one will build on, not ever.
Historic Preservation is as much about real estate as it is about history and nostalgia. There are tools and incentives available to us that communities are not using to save these buildings, such as the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit and the Maryland State Tax credit – both residential and commercial. When you do the math on and you add in the value of the tax credit, these projects begin to make a lot of sense. Think about it, for a $100,000 project, you could potentially recoup upwards of $40,000 or 40% of your costs, bringing your overall expenditure to only $60,000. You can tact on an additional 10% to that for high performance features. Now I’m greatly simplifying the process, but the fact is that developers have been savvy about this incentive for a long time, which is why they like buying historic buildings. In the great state of Maryland, tax credits are available to individuals, businesses, nonprofit organizations (they get cash!) and government entities. So next time you here about someone wanting to demolish a great old building, ask them if they have considered using the tax credits as a means to turn what looks like a lost cause into a great deal and do your community a favor.
– Elizabeth Beckley
For more information start by check out these web sites:
An acquaintance recently asked me what I knew about the current state of the Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Baltimore. I had to admit that I did not know much except there was a partnership formed with the Department of Corrections a few years ago to have inmates clear the land and Morgan State University students had become involved in researching records and surveying grave locations.
Mt. Auburn is a 34-acre cemetery, overlooking the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River. It was established in 1872 as The City of the Dead for Colored People by Rev. James Peck, Pastor and the Trustees of the historic Sharp Street Methodist Episcopal Church. It is the burial site of many distinguished Baltimore residents, including John H. Murphy, founder of the Afro-American Newspapers; Lillie Carroll Jackson, NAACP president and civil rights activist; and Joe Gans (Gant), the world lightweight boxing champion from 1902-1904 and 1906-1908. And there are thousands of unknowns interred there: mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and children.
Today I visited Mt. Auburn Cemetery and was encouraged to see activity at the site. Workmen were busy erecting a brick wall as part of the city’s “Perimeter Rehabilitation Project.” The mosaic stone entrance sign has disappeared but it appears the front entrance is being rebuilt as part of the city’s effort to more effectively surround and enclose the property. As I entered the graveyard it was very apparent that a huge amount of work has been done to remove the overgrowth of weeds, trees, vines and trash that have long plagued the final resting place of many of Baltimore’s renowned and little known residents.
What I didn’t realize was that I was only looking at a portion of the cemetery. As I neared a sign indicating the “Riverview” section, I had no idea that behind it lay acres of graves still lost in wilderness. I was only able to distinguish this area as part of the cemetery because it was inside the fence line. Upon closer inspection, I was able to make out an occasional headstone concealed within the growth of vegetation that has overtaken the area. There is still much to be done.
Mt. Auburn Cemetery is a Baltimore City Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As such, it should be cherished as the significant historical treasure that it is. I look forward to working with the Sharp Street Church (stewards of the cemetery), the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church (owners of the cemetery), and organizations such as the Preservation Alliance for Mt. Auburn Cemetery to ensure the continued clean-up and perpetual care of this site. We owe this to our ancestors.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently distributed a round-up of public policy issues. Included in this report were updates on federal programs of interest to the preservation community included in the 9-bill FY2012 appropriations package signed by President Obama on December 23rd. Here is a rundown of some of those programs.
Historic Preservation Fund (HPF)- The Historic Preservation Fund is an important source of funding for State Historic Preservation Offices and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices. This fund is in the small number of programs to receive a funding increase from FY2011 levels. The funding for the states went from $46.6 million in FY2011 to $47 million in FY2012 and funding for tribes went from $8 million to $9 million. On the downside, the bill does not include any funding for Save America’s Treasures.
The National Trust attributes the increased level of funding for the HPF to the active participation of the historic preservation community in the broad-based advocacy of “America’s Voice for Conservation, Recreation and Preservation.” National Heritage Areas and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation – The National Heritage Areas received level funding at $17.4 million and a $200,000 increase over FY2011 levels for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to $6.1 million. Historic Leasing
The final bill included important report language encouraging the National Park Service to use “cost-effective, innovative solutions like historic leases.” We look forward to expanding our work to protect cultural resources by using such leases to shift the burden of maintenance expenses from the NPS to private lessees who will rehabilitate, restore and maintain historic buildings in exchange for certain use rights. Public Lands – Level funding was received for the Funding for Bureau of Land Management’s National Landscape Conservation System. Disappointingly, the Bureau of Land Management’s funding for cultural programs was slightly less than FY2011 despite an increase in the President’s budget request. National Park Service’s Cultural Programs – These programs received $24.8 million, which is a decrease of $78,000 from FY2011.
In other news the Trust reported it is continuing its work in collaboration with the National Trust Community Investment Corporation and the Historic Tax Credit Coalition to build support for H.R. 2479, the Creating American Prosperity through Preservation Act. This legislation would modernize and enhance the existing Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (HTC). 4 co-sponsors were added at the very end of November and December, including 3 Members of the Ways & Means Committee. The Trust expects the Senate companion bill to be introduced in January.
We will be keeping you updated on federal and state advocacy issues in the coming weeks and months. As shown in the success with the HPF, your voice can make the difference in securing funding for the programs needed to protect our heritage.
The preservation movement in America really began in 1853 with the Mt. Vernon Ladies Association’s effort to save George Washington’s home. Of course, at that time there were no state or federal programs or laws for preserving of our new nation’s cultural or architectural heritage, even Mt. Vernon.
Thankfully, in response to international efforts to preserve historic sites like the Coliseum in Rome, things began to change in the 1930’s leading to the establishment of the nation’s first municipal historic district in Charleston, South Carolina. Eventually the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) was enacted in 1966, which created the National Register of Historic Places and State Historic Preservation Offices and the system for identifying and protecting historic buildings and sites.
Maryland has long been a leader in historic preservation. In fact, the Maryland Historical Trust was established five years before the NHPA in response to lobby efforts by the Society of the Preservation of Maryland Antiquities, now know as Preservation Maryland, to create a quasi-state agency dedicated to preserving historical and cultural resources. But while today the preservation of historic buildings and sites is widely recognized as important to the public welfare, with an established legal and regulatory framework, it is often seen as secondary to education and other social services, or even economic development interests.
Historic preservation is vital to understanding our shared history, maintaining a sense of place, revitalizing older neighborhoods and Main Street commercial districts, creating sustainable communities, and plays an important role in our culture and economy. Accordingly, every five years states are required to produce preservation plans in order to receive federal funding for preservation programs. Unfortunately, the Maryland Historical Trust’s PreserveMaryland planning initiative has stalled at critical time when we need to be demonstrating the importance and benefits of historic preservation when competing for shrinking state revenues.
One of my goals for PreserveMaryland is for the Maryland Historical Trust and Maryland Department of Planning to develop an annual “State of Preservation” report, which both documents and illustrates the impact of the state funding and other programs on preserving are Maryland’s historical and cultural resources. It could be used to more effectively educate lawmakers and empower preservation advocates in the efforts to gain support for the Maryland Historical Trust and its programs, like the Maryland State Arts Council and Department of Business and economic Development do so successfully.
Earlier this week the Maryland General Assembly convened in Annapolis for its 430th legislative session. It’s critical for those who care about the important role of preservation in their lives and communities to make your voices heard. The Governor’s budget is due to be released on January 18. We’ll let you know how preservation interests fare and hope to see you in Annapolis!
Psst. Don’t tell anyone, but I am using the assignment I was given at this week’s staff meeting to “write a blog” as an unscientific research project. For those of you not aware of the schedule inherent in our blog postings, Preservation Maryland staff aims for a new blog post on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week. Judging from the variety of past posts, all of us contributing authors seem to have different ideas about what our blog audience wants and needs to learn from us.
I am the development and communications professional on the staff, so alas, you wouldn’t value any descriptions of historic buildings that I could write. Though I do know the orders of Greek architecture, I am not schooled enough to estimate the dates on most of Maryland’s architectural treasures. I have an unreasonable fear of spiders so I don’t do attics, basements or crawl spaces. Structural mysteries are lost on me. Blogs on architecture or restoration projects are definitely in the purview of the field staff. Would you like to read about our educational programming, things that make you a better preservationist – which we call outreach? Then our outreach director will be your favorite blogger. There are the major advocacy issues – public policy, legislation, and regulations – that consume much of our executive director’s time and blog focus.
Me? I spend most of my time telling others about the organization, with the goal of engaging them to the point of providing financial support. There is tremendous satisfaction in this. Every once in a while, a phone call comes from out of the blue, announcing support from someone not on our radar screen. More often, it is the steady trickle of membership renewals and annual fund gifts that sustain me professionally, and the organization financially. For blog readers, this is probably not exciting stuff, but to our organization, it is our life’s blood. There is evidence that those who use and most value social media are not those who are most likely to provide financial support to a charity such as Preservation Maryland.
So, here comes the experiment part: send us your comments about what you’d like to read about in our blog and, while you’re at it, click here to make a donation so we can continue writing!
In 1989, Elizabeth Banks and her siblings sold the beautiful, historic 138-acre Belward Farm to Johns Hopkins University (JHU) for $5 million. At the time, the property was estimated to be worth $54 million. What accounts for the substantially reduced sale price? According to Ms. Banks’ heirs, the sale was contingent upon an agreement with JHU that the majority of the Belward Farm property would serve the university primarily for educational and research purposes.
By all accounts, Ms. Banks was a staunch preservationist. She is reputed to have resisted the offers of developers for the family’s property for years, even going so far as chasing them off her land. But she apparently had a soft spot in her heart for JHU and the assurance that they would do the right thing, in her eyes, with her family’s property. They were not, after all, developers.
In 1997, JHU and the family agreed on a plan to build a 1.4 million-square foot satellite campus on Belward Farm. The plan has since morphed into a 4.7 million square feet high rise commercial office park with high density, residential development.
Which brings us to the lawsuit that has recently been filed by the “Family” in Montgomery County Circuit Court. According to Tim Newell, nephew of Elizabeth Banks and the Family lawyer, “Early in the process, we made known to the University the Family’s objections to its current plans. Instead of working with us to address these concerns, the University has simply maintained that its new plan is not at odds with what my Aunt Elizabeth had in mind,” Newell said. The Family strongly disagrees. It is sad and ironic that Johns Hopkins, the University my Aunt was so fond of, has become the type of developer that she tried so hard to protect the Farm from. It is unsettling to think that a Family with the best of intentions to support a University and preserve a farm of historic importance have had their legal rights and donative intent ignored by the gift’s recipient, Johns Hopkins University.”
In 2010, Preservation Maryland, along with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and local historic preservation organizations advocated for the preservation of the historic core of the site and the consideration of reduced density development of the farmstead. We further encourage all involved to ultimately consider the wishes of those who owned and protected Belward Farm before its sale to JHU.
Stay tuned: we’ll keep you updated on court actions going forward.
Now that the Holidays are behind us, it is just a matter of days until the General Assembly convenes. For anyone with an interest in protecting Maryland’s historic places, that means it is time to brush up on our advocacy skills. State funding for projects, organizations, and programs like the Sustainable Communities Tax Credit are critical to preservation effort. Once again we will need strong support from all of you to help ensure these programs get the funding they need.
If advocacy seems like a daunting task to you, help is on its way. An advocacy training day will be held geared towards those who support Maryland’s history. This Maryland Association of History Museums event will take place on January 31, 2012 from 2:30 – 4:00 PM at the Governor Calvert House in Annapolis. Below is information from the event’s announcement.
“Join your colleagues and friends—preservationists, museum staff and volunteers, archaeologists, and other champions of Maryland’s history and culture—for an opportunity to become an effective advocate for Maryland’s rich historical and cultural legacy. This afternoon event will assist you in becoming a comfortable and effective representative of the museum and preservation communities. The ninety minute program will outline State funding programs and provide you with techniques for communicating effectively with legislators and their staffs. “
To RSVP for the training, go to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Immediately following the program and in the same venue will be the Maryland Historical Trust’s annual Preservation Awards. The ceremony will take place at 4:30 PM followed by a reception in the Atrium at 6 PM. The Preservation Awards event is free and open to the public but advance registration is required. Click here to RSVP.
I hope to see you on the 31st! In the meantime, check out our advocacy resource page. Among the resources are a rundown on how the legislative process works and important dates to remember.