Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Trust's "Preservation Strategic Plan" Lauded at Annual Celebration

At their annual gathering held at Snow Hill Manor in Laurel on May 18, political and preservation leaders from across the county heard about the hottest issues and biggest challenges facing their community. For the third year in a row, a group comprised of members from the Trust, Prince George's Heritage, and the Historical Society compiled a "15 Most Endangered Properties" listing. Last year, the Maryland Historic Trust copied that initiative and prepared their own statewide list of endangered sites. Another Prince George's innovation, the Historic and Cultural Trust's dynamic "strategic plan for preservation," was lauded by speakers at the event. That plan is designed to increase the numbers of preservationists in Prince George's, to jumpstart new historic districts in the county, and to broaden the definition of heritage sites beyond traditional museum houses and residences.

The 2007 "15 Most Endangered List" was unveiled by Heritage board member Mike Arnold. It included bricks-and-mortar structures such as Bostwick House near the Anacostia, and the rare African American freeman family home, the Butler House, along the Potomac River. However, the listing was far more than a house listing. Maryland's most threatened open space -- the 70-acre Fennell tract that is threatened by plans for a 54-house subdivision in the heart of the Broad Creek Historic District -- made the list, along with the County's "rapidly vanishing rural preserves" and the trend toward shrinking the size of "settings" around significant resources.

Political leaders in attendance included Council Members Thomas Dernoga and Eric Olsen, and County Executive Jack Johnson's Chief of Staff Michael Herman. Herman thanked the assembly for saving the best parts of the County. He honored Trust Chairman Alfonse Narvaez and Historic Preservation Commission Dave Turner, and the County Executive-appointed panelists who serve as board members for the two organizations.

Keynote speaker was Chancellor of University of Maryland, William E. Kirwan. He attempted to explain how programs at the school's traditional architecture and planning departments are integrating preservation concepts into their curriculums. He also said he hopes the University's new real estate marketing and development division will become a showcase for better practices for private land-development companies. During his remarks, he underscored the University's relentless support of the recently approved Old Town College Park Local Historic District. Opposing the creation of that new entity were some owners of buildings that are used for student housing. The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) already has begun hearing permit requests from Old Town College Park landowners, including Sigma Chi Fraternity's request to demolish their 60-year-old chapter house. The Sigma Chi house is a contributing feature in the new Historic District, and was included on the "15 Most Endangered" list.

Two homeowners were sited for successful rescues of their properties this year. Magnolia Knoll, an 1850 farmhouse built on a spectacular stretch of the Patuxent River, was rehabilitated by HPC Commissioner Jack Thompson. Magnolia Knoll is a two-part frame structure with a salt-box roof and a one-story kitchen addition. It is significant as the only 19th century structure to have survived the fire that destroyed much of Nottingham in 901.

Also receiving one of the heavy brass plaques for placement on his home was Robert Brinklow, owner of Gwynn Park in Brandywine. Built in 1857, Gwynn Park is two-story, side-gabled brick house with full-Georgian plan and an unusual decorative cornice composed of courses of molded corbelled bricks. It is a noticeable local landmark, now at the center of the recently developed Hampton Subdivision.

HPC Chairman Turner addressed the challenge that property rights advocates are presenting to preservationists, and outlined the Commission's goal to make Prince George's the nation's premier African American Heritage County.

William Early House Tour

The following information was buried in a comment. None of us should miss the chance to walk through what promises to be a beautiful property. Thanks to UUMom for bringing it to our attention.

You are Invited to the
100th Anniversary Celebration
of the William Early House
in Brandywine, Maryland
Sept. 16, 2007
for a historic tour includes food & brief lecture
sponsored by Prince George's County Historical Society
for more information or reminder, subscribe to either:
PGHist-chat or PGHistory-L from PGHistory.org
or contact 301-782-9922
(Note: there will be a fee to benefit the Society)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Historic Preservation Reception

May 17, 2007
Prince George’s County Historic Preservation Reception
Snow Hill Manor, Laurel from 6 to 8pm.
Historic Preservation Reception celebrating historic preservation in the County with Dr. William Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland. In addition, the 2007 List of Endangered Historic Places in Prince George’s County will be announced at the reception.

Free (RSVP required). For more information, contact Pam Cooper, 301-390-0797. Sponsored by M-NCPPC, Prince George’s Heritage, Prince George’s Historical Society, Prince George’s Historic Trust and others.

Update: RSVP quickly! The due date for RSVP’ing was May 9th, so if you plan to come please RSVP immediately to 301-627-2270.

Grand Tour of Prince George's Historic Homes


That's the synthesis of my feelings after touring the historic homes here in Prince George's County this past Saturday.

Wow for the sense of history -- a true feeling of walking back in time.

Wow for the beautiful renovation at Bowieville and kudos to the developer for making it happen.

Wow for the beautiful settings, the fabulous furniture, and the impressive architecture.

A special Wow for the lunch provided by the Fellowship Committee at St. Thomas' Parish -- I over-ate just to make sure I sampled everything...even had macaroni and cheese for dessert. And those carrots!

But the biggest Wow -- WOW! -- goes to the homeowners who were so gracious and welcoming. In all the conversations I heard afterwards, everyone mentioned how special it was for the homeowners to open their homes and allow the public to traipse through. How they encouraged us to feel at home. No rushing us through. Happy to answer our questions and point out details.

I want to go back this weekend and do it all over again.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Historic Sites in Prince George's County

There is a terrific book put out by Park and Planning called the Illustrated Inventory of Historic Sites, Prince George's County, Maryland. It was updated in 2006 and -- here's the exciting part -- is now available online.

You'll lose yourself for a couple of hours, just browsing the pages and discovering -- or maybe even re-discovering -- our rich and beautiful history.