Meet Harford County, Maryland’s Newest Certified Local Government!

By Nell Ziehl, Chief, Office of Planning, Education and Outreach

As the State Historic Preservation Office, the Maryland Historical Trust administers the Certified Local Government program, a federal-state-local partnership designed to highlight and support counties and municipalities that have made a special commitment to historic preservation. Local governments with historic preservation commissions must meet certain standards to qualify for the program, in return for which they have the opportunity to access funds for education and training, as well as compete for project grants (for example, to support preservation planning, architectural or archaeological survey, or nominations to the National Register of Historic Places). To learn more about the Certified Local Government program, visit our website.

In December 2019, we were pleased to welcome Harford County into the program. This year, in honor of Preservation Month, I asked Jenny Jarkowski, Deputy Director, and Joel Gallihue, Chief of Long Range Planning in the Harford County Department of Planning and Zoning, to share their thoughts on preservation in the county. The Q&A follows.

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Lee’s Merchant Mill, Jerusalem Mill Village (photo courtesy of Harford County)

What is it about the historic character of Harford County that makes it special?

Harford County has such a diverse collection of resources, starting with the archaeological sites of Susquehannock people and early English colonial cabins. We have existing examples of homes and mansions that demonstrate the major architectural styles built in the eastern United States. We have important African American history, including two Freedmen’s Bureau schools and documented stops on the Underground Railroad. A crossroads of maritime, transportation, and military history, with easy access to major cities, we feel the potential for heritage tourism and heritage lifestyles for those who choose to invest in our resources.

What is your favorite historic place in Harford County?

It is difficult to choose, but with everyone sheltering at home (despite some beautiful spring weather), we suggest HA-469, better known as Rocks State Park. A visitor to the King and Queen Seat can see the same view local author Thomas Wysong lauded in 1880 as a “[r]are picture of sublimity and beauty … embracing within its range hill and dale, forest and field, river and brook, farmhouse and hamlet.” With a little extra care to observe social distancing, this historic resource can help relieve cabin fever.

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King and Queen Seat at Rocks State Park (photo courtesy of Harford County)

Why did Harford County want to become a Certified Local Government?

Our 2016 master plan HarfordNEXT states, “These [historic] resources provide a direct link to our past, contributing to our sense of community and offering continuity as Harford County continues to grow and evolve.” Gaining Certified Local Government status was an implementation strategy of that plan.

What are some of your preservation priorities over the next few years?

We have many implementation strategies in HarfordNEXT, the county’s master plan. Some of these include the identification and prioritization of threatened or endangered resources which are of significant value in the county’s history. A big thrust in the coming years will be to expand the county’s landmark list. During this expansion, we would like to examine the documentation of historic districts that together have significance to the history of a locale. We will also be exploring the establishment of an archaeology component to our existing program.

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The main house at Bon Air, built c. 1794 in Fallston (photo courtesy of Harford County)

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Harford County has very diverse cultural and historic resources, from the King and Queen Seat to the north, to the Route 40 corridor to the south. In the middle is the Town of Bel Air, which is also a Certified Local Government, with its bustling historic Main Street. To the east we have the cities of Havre de Grace and Aberdeen: Havre de Grace and its beautiful homes and waterfront and Aberdeen with its strong ties to the Aberdeen Proving Ground. When we can travel again, come visit!

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