Celebrating 60 Years of Preservation in Maryland

By Elizabeth Hughes, Maryland Historical Trust Director

In 1961, the world was changing – and fast.  This was the year that Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin became the first human to fly in space.  It was the year in which Freedom Riders began interstate bus rides, to test the U.S. Supreme Court rulings on desegregation.  It launched a decade of Cold War intrigue as construction of the Berlin Wall got underway, and the Bay of Pigs failure laid the groundwork for the Cuban Missile Crisis.  In this same year, the Maryland Historical Trust was born.  

Elizabeth Hughes in her office in Crownsville

Authorized on May 3, 1961, MHT was “created for the purpose of preserving and maintaining historical, aesthetic, and cultural properties, buildings, fixtures, furnishings and appurtenances pertaining in any way to the Province and State of Maryland from earliest times, to encourage others to do so and to promote interest in and study of such matters.”

Former MHT Director J. Rodney Little in his Annapolis office in 1980

After sixty years, a lot has changed. Certainly, the language of that purpose clause no longer rings true today. We recognize the history of this place predates European concepts of a Maryland “province” or “state.” MHT‘s mission is no longer concerned with “fixtures” and “furnishings” and has expanded to consider archaeology and landscapes. We no longer operate as an independent entity, but we are a bigger and better funded agency.  Today, each state has a State Historic Preservation Office, but in 1961, Maryland was unusual in committing state support to our shared cultural heritage. With the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966 and subsequent programs to foster preservation and archaeology, a network of federal, state, and local partners has grown to support these important efforts around the country. Of course, in more recent memory, our ways of working have also shifted: email correspondence, webinars, and virtual meetings have all but replaced faxes, hard copies, and in-person workshops. What else needs to change and what should remain the same?

MHT Board of Trustees’ ceremony for the Maryland Preservation Awards, c. 1990

As we celebrate our diamond anniversary this Preservation Month, I would like to hear from you. Please use this simple Google Form to give us your thoughts and let us know what you’d like to see from us in the future. In the next few weeks, in response to feedback we received from our recent COVID-19 survey of historic and cultural organizations, I will also host a virtual listening session to learn more from our constituents about current challenges and help encourage peer-to-peer exchange. Depending on demand, we may offer additional sessions going forward. Watch our Facebook page or sign up for news if you’d like to register! 

Thanks in advance for sharing with us, and here’s to the next sixty years! 

New Leadership for the New Year

By Elizabeth Hughes, Director and State Historic Preservation Officer

As we welcome the new year, I would like to share recent leadership changes on the Maryland Historical Trust Board of Trustees that will guide our organization into 2019. MHT’s 15-member Board includes the Governor, the Senate President, and the House Speaker (or their designees), and 12 members appointed by the Governor. 

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Chairman Brien Poffenberger

In 2018, Charles Edson completed a distinguished six-year term as Chairman of the Board, turning the gavel over to Brien J. Poffenberger, elected as Chairman in July. Brien has held leadership positions in the public and private sectors and has worked for a range of businesses, both large and small. Previously he served as President/CEO of the Maryland State Chamber of Commerce, as Executive Director of the National Association for Olmsted Parks, and in various positions at General Electric and on Capitol Hill. Brien also has experience teaching, acting as an adjunct professor at Northern Virginia Community College and Shepherd College in West Virginia, where he taught American Architectural History. Brien has an MBA from Georgetown University, an MA in Architectural History from the University of Virginia, and a BA in Government from the College of William & Mary. His family is originally from Sharpsburg (Washington County) and he now lives in Annapolis with his family.

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Vice Chairman Laura Mears

Elected as Vice-Chairman of the Board is Laura Davis Mears, an Eastern Shore native with a passion for history and historic preservation. A graduate of Salisbury University, Laura subsequently studied and trained in various aspects of fundraising and nonprofit management, working in the nonprofit arena for 18 years. Laura has served on the Boards of several entities related to history and preservation, including the Somerset County Historical Society, Preservation Trust of Wicomico, and the Maryland Heritage Alliance. She is currently on the boards of Historic St. Martin’s Church Foundation and Rackliffe Plantation House Trust. Laura resides in Berlin (Worcester County) with her husband Tom, two sons Davis and Will, and their Golden Retriever, Captain.

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Treasurer Sam Parker

Continuing his position as Treasurer of the Board is Samuel J. Parker, currently a partner with the consulting firm Parker Associates Global, which promotes economic and sustainable development in Africa. Mr. Parker is Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Prince George’s Community College in Maryland, a board member of the Aman Memorial Trust, and a board member of the Housing Initiative Partnership. From 2006 to 2011, Mr. Parker served as Chairman of the Prince George’s County Planning Board and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. He is a graduate of Catholic University of America and has a Masters of Regional Planning from Cornell University. Sam lives in Riverdale (Prince George’s County) with his wife Patricia.

Congratulations to Brien, Laura, and Sam on their election and thank you to all of the MHT Board members who generously volunteer their time to support our preservation mission throughout the year.