It all started as my grad school Preservation Planning class project: Create a historic preservation plan.
We could choose where. As in anywhere. I could have gone for somewhere that already had a plan in place as a model, or had a HP commission or at least an ordinance, but noooo…I chose somewhere that didn’t even have a preservation ordinance–despite having a historic district. The place? The small town on Washington, DC’s border in Prince George’s County, Maryland that I live in. Why? I thought perhaps it was a good idea. Now that I’m entering the final stretch of writing this thing, I know it’s not over at my professor’s deadline.
My town has less than 1500 residents. No businesses. No promotion. No money. That’s a lot of “No’s” with a community that I’m not sure knows as much as they could about the history of where they live and are understandably leery of preservation efforts. I am embarrassed to admit that I’ve lived here for years and didn’t know either. But the thing is, all you need is someone to be like “Yes” who has vision. I found this person in the town’s mayor, who was (and is) not only very excited about my project, but could see preservation as a way to help our town shine. We talked for two solid hours about what could be done, what needed to be done, and ideas for the future. Between my research and the feedback from her and Howard Berger, head of the PG County HP Commission, I have an idea of what this plan should be.
This plan should be more than “preservation-ese”–in language only other historians and preservationists would understand. It needs to be an accessible plan. One that the average resident can proudly get behind and get hyped about. About history and preservation and what it means for them and what it means for our town’s future.
And if you are wondering, that is my neighbor’s stucco and clapboard house having vinyl siding installed. It’s not ideal. The preservationist in me died a little inside, but to the mayor, it is beautiful and a sign of the very maintenance that she wants to see more of–even if it’s not to historic standards for now.
This is bigger than any grade I could receive…