By Ennis Barbery Smith, MHAA Assistant Administrator
About a week ago now, on the evening of May 17, 2018, Aaron Marcavitch—Executive Director of the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area (ATHA)—accepted the Gearhart Professional Service award, as part of Preservation Maryland’s annual Best of Maryland awards. ATHA is one of thirteen Heritage Areas designated across the state by the Maryland Heritage Areas Program, and the organization has benefited tremendously from Aaron’s collaborative and creative leadership-style since he took the helm in 2010.
In 2012, Aaron launched the Maryland Milestones brand, which celebrates the unique “firsts” that have occurred and will continue to occur within the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area in the realms of automobile transportation infrastructure, aviation, telegraphs, and train travel, among others. He was also instrumental in commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812, including taking leadership roles in initiatives focusing on the Battle of Bladensburg in Prince George’s County.
In 2017, ATHA opened the Heritage Center in downtown Hyattsville. Located in a historic silent movie theatre known as the Arcade Building, the Heritage Center serves as a starting point for visitors and residents interested in experiencing the region’s cultural and recreational offerings—from bicycle trails to history museums. The building is also home to the Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center and the Neighborhood Design Center, partner organizations that showcase the area’s arts and culture.
Aaron’s strong record of building creative partnerships for historic preservation and heritage tourism initiatives make him a worthy recipient of the Gearhart Professional Service Award. This award, named for Tyler Gearhart—long-time, former director of Preservation Maryland—is presented each year to a historic preservation professional who, in Preservation Maryland’s words, “has demonstrated extraordinary leadership, knowledge, and creativity in the protection and preservation of Maryland’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes, and archeological sites.”
When he’s not busy steering ATHA, Aaron also dedicates his time and energy to the collaborative efforts of the Coalition of Maryland Heritage Areas. Elizabeth Scott Shatto, Co-Chair of the Coalition, shared, “Our outreach efforts are led by Aaron, who is terrific at engaging a team and always willing to be hands-on with what ever needs doing. His outlook is positive and optimistic, which helps win friends for Maryland Heritage Areas. We Heritage Area directors are fortunate to have Aaron as a colleague, and Maryland is fortunate to have Aaron as an advocate for history, culture and preservation.”
In his “free” time, Aaron has been sharing his knowledge of architecture and local history through writing. His book US Route 1: Baltimore to Washington was published this spring by Arcadia Press, as part of the Images of America series.