Historic Preservation at Home

By Lara Westwood, Librarian with contributions from MHT staff

The Maryland Historical Trust staff — like so many of you — have been spending a lot more time at home lately. We have turned to online resources and our home libraries to continue our education in historic preservation in these unprecedented times. For Preservation Month, here are few of our favorite resources that you can check out from the comfort of your couch.  

#HistoricPreservation on Instagram.

Social Media to Follow:

CheapOldHouses – If you are in the market for a historic fixer-upper, this Instagram account is for you. 

Heritage & Historic Preservation – NPS – Learn more on Facebook about historic preservation efforts led by the National Park Service across the country. 

#HistoricPreservation – A great hashtag to follow on Twitter and Instagram to find out the latest industry news, trends, and projects. 

Maryland Preservation Forum – Request to join this Facebook group to learn more about preservation projects and events around the state.

MdHistoricalTrust – Follow us on Instagram to find out more about our work. 

OldHouseLove – An Instagram account dedicated to the beauty of old houses, especially those in need of some TLC. 

PoplarForestRestoration – This Instagram account follows the restoration of Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson’s second home and one of the first octagonal houses built in America. 

#Preserve66 – A hashtag initiative on Instagram and Twitter to showcase historic preservation efforts on the famous Route 66. 

Rainbow Heritage Network – Learn more about efforts to preserve and document sites related to LGBTQ+ history. 

SavingPlaces – Follow the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Instagram account for updates on their latest initiatives. 

#ThisPlaceMatters – A hashtag campaign spearheaded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation on Twitter and Instagram to highlight forgotten spaces and neighborhood pride. 

USInterior – The official Instagram account of the U.S. Department of the Interior features photographs of the country’s most breathtaking spaces. 

What_style_is_that – An Instagram account curated by preservationist Karyn Wen that breaks down American architectural styles and features. 

WillieGraham1000 – Architectural historian Willie Graham shares beautiful photographs of his work in Maryland and Virginia on his Instagram account. 

A great resource on architecture and history in the Mid-Atlantic.

Books to Read:

The Chesapeake House: Architectural Investigation by Colonial Williamsburg by Cary Carson, Carl Lounsbury, and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation – An in-depth look at the development of the building practices and landscape of the Chesapeake region. 

A Field Guide to American houses: the Definitive Guide to Identifying and Understanding America’s Domestic Architecture by Virginia McAlester, Lee McAlester, Suzanne Patton Matty, and Steve Clicque – An excellent reference for both the professional and amateuer architectural historian to learn more about the styles seen in your own neighborhood. 

Identifying American Architecture: a Pictorial Guide to Styles and Terms, 1600-1945 by John J-G Blumenson – A quick reference for identifying architectural styles. 

An Illustrated Glossary of Early Southern Architecture and Landscape by Carl Lounsbury, Vanessa Elizabeth Patrick, and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation – Learn the terms for architectural elements present in colonial buildings down the eastern seaboard.

Preserving African American Historic Places by Brent Leggs, Kerri Rubman, and Byrd Wood – A guide to documenting and preserving spaces that have been often overlooked by mainstream preservation efforts. 

Sah-archipedia.org, a peer-reviewed encyclopedia of architectural terms and images.

Websites to Surf:

ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) Photobank – Explore photographs of sites of historical significance across the globe. 

Library of Congress Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey – Search documentation on the country’s historic places created by the National Park Service since 1933. 

Our History, Our Heritage – The MHT blog where we share stories about our projects, grants, and research. 

Preservationdirectory.com – A one-stop website for all things historic preservation, including a listing of historic house museums, historic real estate for sale, law library, and more.  

SAH Archipedia – A comprehensive online encyclopedia of American architecture created by the Society of Architectural Historians.

Technical Preservation Services – Learn more about the National Park Service’s historic preservation work and find online classes and publications, such as the Technical Briefs. 

UNESCO – Learn more about worldwide initiatives to protect international heritage sites. 

A Visual Glossary of Classical Architecture – An image library of ancient architectural elements. 

Videos to Watch:

Baltimore Heritage Five Minute Histories – Learn more about Baltimore landmarks in these short but informative videos presented by Baltimore Heritage. 

Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans online classes – While focused on the history of the Big Easy, the Preservation Center offers webinars on a variety of historic preservation topics, including wood window restoration and home decor tips. 

Podcasts to Listen to:

99% Invisible – Host Roman Mars explores “the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world” on this podcast. 

Practical Preservation Podcast – Presented by Keperling Preservation Services, this podcast features interviews with industry experts and discusses the importance of historic preservation. 

PreserveCast – Preservation Maryland Executive Director Nicholas Redding conducts interviews on his monthly podcast on all manner of subjects related to historic preservation.  

Please note: appearance on this list does not represent an endorsement by the State of Maryland or the Maryland Historical Trust. Happy exploring!

Architectural Fieldwork

By Allison Luthern, Architectural Survey Administrator

Architectural fieldwork is an important part of understanding and preserving historic places. When MHT staff investigate a site, we look closely at the historic fabric of the buildings to reveal clues about their history, changes over time, and significance. Many of these answers will be found in the building’s form, features, materials, and details. In addition to investigation, we document the built environment, analyze and interpret findings, and archive our discoveries. This process helps MHT’s architectural historians and preservationists to realize the types of historic places that survive or have already been lost. (In fact, past completed fieldwork is one of the only ways we have information about demolished historic buildings!) We use this information to create better plans and strategies for future preservation efforts. Fieldwork helps us to advance MHT’s mission of identifying, documenting, and evaluating Maryland’s diverse cultural heritage.

When possible, MHT’s Office of Research, Survey, and Registration conducts fieldwork at the request of people who want to learn more about their historic buildings. Earlier this year, MHT staff responded to one such request by a property owner in Washington County who had recently purchased a home and discovered that there were three small log buildings located on the property. Log construction was very common in western Maryland from its earliest European American settlement through to the twentieth century, and MHT hoped to help the property owner understand the age and significance of the structures on their property. 

Log buildings in Washington County. Source: MHT staff

On site, MHT staff closely investigated the log buildings, which consisted of one small story-and-a-half dwelling, one summer kitchen with a large stone chimney, and one very small storage building. Architectural historians refer to the form of these log buildings as “single pen” – they are one room enclosures with four walls. This form is associated with modest, simple structures. An important feature to consider when investigating a log building is its corner notching, or the way that the logs lock into place at the ends. Corner notching can reveal the complexity of construction as well as the builder’s regional influences. These buildings were constructed with “V” notching, as illustrated in the photo below. This was the most common notching technique.

A closer look at one of the buildings. Source: Staff photo

We also searched for nails used in the buildings. Because the form of fasteners changed over time with manufacturing technology, they are a very important way to help date a structure. We discovered that wire nails—widely used by the 1880s and still utilized today—were employed in the construction of these buildings. All of our investigation pointed to an early twentieth century construction date.

One of the log buildings examined by the MHT staff. Source: Staff photo

To document the buildings, we took notes, photographs, and basic measurements.

The next steps in fieldwork—analysis and interpretation—may not even occur in the field, but they are crucially important in giving meaning to our investigation. We used historic records to research the property, including land records, census data, maps, newspapers, and community histories. We also read through books, journal articles, and architectural survey reports in the MHT Library. From this research, we determined that the log buildings were constructed in the early twentieth century by a local family for residential use, given their small size and assemblage. The surrounding acreage was likely used for fruit farming around this time.

Fruit farming became widespread in western Maryland as refrigeration, urbanization, and transportation advanced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Historic maps revealed that a trolley (or electric railway) line was located directly adjacent to the log buildings and would have assisted in transporting both people and freight until its dismantling in 1936. It is possible that these log buildings were occupied until the mid-twentieth century when a new, more modern house was constructed, probably by a different owner who used the surrounding land for recreation more than agriculture.

U.S. Geological Survey, Hagerstown [map], 1:62500, Topographic Quadrangle Map, Reston, VA, 1912 Source: U.S. Geological Survey

Our fieldwork will conclude with the creation of a Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties (MIHP) form for the log buildings. The MIHP is a repository of information on districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects of known or potential value to the history or prehistory of the State of Maryland. This final step will ensure that the findings of our fieldwork will be preserved and available to researchers or interested members of the public via our library and our online cultural resource information system known as Medusa.

Fieldwork is a very rewarding process! As time and resources allow, MHT staff would love to help others with their investigations. Please contact staff in the Office of Research, Survey, and Registration with any questions (including Allison Luthern, Architectural Survey Administrator at allison.luthern@maryland.gov).

Preserving a Legacy: The Orlando Ridout V Collection

By Lara Westwood, Librarian, Maryland Historical Trust

Orlando Ridout V grew up surrounded by Maryland history. His family could trace its roots here back to 1753, and he grew up in a home built on the land of his family’s ancestral estate, Whitehall. His father, Orlando Ridout IV, known for his preservation work in Annapolis, was the Maryland Historical Trust’s founding director. After graduating from the University of Virginia, Ridout began his career at MHT and stayed for nearly 30 years until his death in 2013. In 1989, he became the Chief of the Office of Research, Survey, and Registration, where he built a robust program of architectural study and documentation, advancing the scholarship on Maryland’s architectural history.  

Orlando Ridout V at work in Annapolis. (Staff photo)
Orlando Ridout V at work in Annapolis. (Staff photo)

Shortly after joining MHT, Ridout began work on a comprehensive survey of Queen Anne’s County. His enthusiasm for thorough documentation led him to study nearly five hundred historic structures for which he conducted field survey and archival research, created measured drawings, and took countless photographs. The survey shed new light on the county’s architectural trends and historical development, becoming the high-water mark for future county surveys conducted by MHT. He was also passionate about the study of barns and agricultural buildings and worked early on with the Friends of Friendless Farm Buildings, a group founded to document these often forgotten structures, to record farm buildings on the Eastern Shore. His expertise was sought after for many significant preservation and documentation projects, including the Third Haven Meeting House in Easton, Maryland and the Nathaniel Russell House in Charleston, South Carolina. His extensive research resulted in a number of publications, including co-authorship of Architecture in Annapolis: A Field Guide and a chapter in The Chesapeake House: Architectural Investigation by Colonial Williamsburg. He also taught “Field Methods for Architectural History” at George Washington University, where he fostered the next generation of preservation professionals. 

Ridout took great pride in his work on the Third Haven Meeting House. (Source: Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties)

After his passing in 2013, the MHT Library received his research collection, a tremendous cache of papers filled with deep insight into the history of the state. Dozens of field and research notebooks, lecture notes and readings, architectural sketches, manuscript drafts of publications and reviews, and about 30 metal storage boxes  containing over 20,000 35mm slides comprise the collection. Ridout’s work on Queen Anne’s County is well represented, and further study of his field notebooks, census and tax record analysis, and other research notes may provide additional context beyond the final architectural survey report. Ridout also extensively researched the 1798 Federal Direct Tax, and scholars may benefit from reviewing his in-depth analysis for his  article “Reediting the Past: A Comparison of Surviving Physical and Documentary Evidence on Maryland’s Eastern Shore” published in the Fall 2014 issue of Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum. The collection includes research notes and correspondence related to his consultation work with George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Colonial Williamsburg as well. Among the thousands of slides compiled for lectures and reference are images of historic buildings from across the United States and England and representational examples of architectural styles, building plans, and interior details.

A few of the many slide boxes in the collection. (Staff photo)
A few of the many slide boxes in the collection. (Staff photo)

MHT staff are currently working to make the collection available to researchers, and the finding aid will be posted online in the coming months. The collection is currently being organized and inventoried according to archival principles, assessed for conservation issues, and rehoused in acid-free boxes and folders. Once the project is complete, the collection will be available for public use.

A Summer Exploring Maryland’s History by Land and Sea

A Summer Exploring Maryland’s History by Land and Sea

By Stephanie Soder, 2019 Summer Intern in Maryland Archeology

Having recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Maritime Studies (Archeology), I was excited when I was chosen as the Maryland Historical Trust’s summer intern. I grew up just over the Mason-Dixon border in Pennsylvania and spent about half of my life in Maryland, so I was happy to be back in the state I considered “home”. The MHT Archeology staff wasted no time in throwing me into the chaos of gearing up for the annual Tyler Bastian Field Session that was taking place at Billingsley House in Prince George’s County.

The Author examining a prehistoric pit feature exposed during the 2019 Field Session
(Drone imagery courtesy of Ryan Craun, M-NCPPC).

Though the Billingsley House dates to the 18th century, this 11-day field session focused on finding two 17th-century Native American villages. I was charged with keeping the field lab running smoothly and the site forms organized. Water buckets and toothbrushes came out every day for artifact washing, allowing volunteers to take a break from digging in the heat. Every tenth bucket coming from each unit was water screened through a ⅛” mesh, hoping to reveal small trade beads (and creating quite the mess). By the end of the session, 12 units had been opened, resulting in artifacts ranging from pre-colonial lithics and ceramics to nails, faunal remains, and fire-cracked rock. Thanks to the hard efforts of the lab volunteers, almost all of the artifacts were washed and weighed by the end of the last day.

The remaining time of my internship was split between a variety of projects. I was able to work on projects that met my interests, and though I love to be out in the field, I challenged myself by taking on tasks that I was not as familiar with: Section 106 review and compliance, artifact identification, and remote sensing.

A Late Archaic projectile point recovered at Billingsley (Photo by the author).

Compliance archeology focuses on ensuring that federal and state funded projects limit impacts to the historical integrity of sites around Maryland. Dixie Henry and Beth Cole shared their expectations for compliance reports and gave me federal and state standards for archeology and architectural studies to read. They then allowed to me to review some compliance reports and tag along on a consultation meeting with the National Park Service to mitigate impacts to historic sites while building their new C & O Canal Headquarters. The time I spent learning about compliance has reinforced my appreciation for the work that goes into protecting our historical resources.

My graduate research focused largely on Pacific Islander culture and modern conflict, so getting familiar with artifacts found throughout Maryland was a necessity. I spent much of the second half of my internship in the lab cleaning, identifying, and photographing artifacts from previously completed fieldwork in Janes Island State Park (Somerset County). I then began working on site forms and compiled a report that highlighted research on each type of artifact find. There’s no better way to learn how to complete a task than getting to do it first-hand, and I feel that my time working with the artifacts helped familiarize me with examples found around Maryland and the resources available for identification.

Most of my previous work involved excavation or evaluation with very little training in remote sensing. Under the tutelage of Matt McKnight and Charlie Hall, I learned how to run a magnetic susceptibility meter and a fluxgate gradiometer. Putting what I had learned to the test, we set out for a new site that may be associated with an ordinary dating from the origins of Caroline County. I assisted with using the gradiometer and practiced with the magnetic susceptibility meter. The collected data will help with future work on the site by the Caroline County Historical Society. Out on Janes Island, Troy Nowak put me to work completing a side-scan sonar and bathymetric survey in Maryland waters. With a steady hand and concentration, I learned to follow transect lines while driving a boat in order to collect data consistently. The rest of the week was spent surveying the shoreline and tracking how it has changed over time in order to evaluate potential impacts on historical sites.

The author collecting marine remote sensing data off of Janes Island (Photo by Troy Nowak).

My summer at MHT came to an end far too quickly, but it has been an extremely rewarding experience. It has helped prepare me for a career in Maryland, and I’d like to thank the entire staff at MHT for their guidance, patience, and for providing me this amazing opportunity.

Introducing the MHT Library

By Lara Westwood, Librarian, Maryland Historical Trust

In honor of National Library Week, we are showcasing the library at the Maryland Historical Trust, an often overlooked resource for those seeking guidance on restoring and preserving historic properties, researching archeological sites, or simply interested in Maryland history, historic preservation, architectural history, and archeology. The library collection holds over 10,000 books, archeological reports, architectural drawings, as well as historical maps, oral histories, and over 100,000 photographic slides and negatives, which could benefit a wide variety of researchers.

The library at the Maryland Historical Trust.

Books in the library range in topic from prehistory, anthropology, and geology to biography, decorative arts, and modern architecture. The collection emphasizes studies of Maryland in county histories, genealogical works, and other resources, but is not limited in scope. The owner of a historic home, for example, may find catalogs advertising house kits and other building supplies, how-to manuals on repairing and preserving roofs and windows, and books on architectural styles useful. The wide selection of books on interior design, historic wall finishings, and house styles may appeal to students of architecture or historic preservation. Archeological research can be supplemented by books on Native American cultures, technology and theory, shipwrecks, and more. Dissertations, theses, and student papers by professors and university students on relevant themes have also been collected. New books are frequently added to the collection, including limited run, locally and self-published works. The library also maintains subscriptions to a numbered of local, national, and international professional and popular journals and periodicals, often not available in local public libraries.

A sampling a just a few of the thousands of titles in the collection.

Supplemental materials related to the nearly 50,0000 properties on the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties (MIHP) are some of the most unique items in our collection. This includes historic structure reports, field and research reports, published works, architectural drawings, vertical files, and photographs. Historic structure reports are typically in-depth studies of single properties with recommendations for rehabilitation and conservation work. A wide variety of structures have been investigated including houses, government buildings, lighthouses, and churches, and these reports are often helpful sources for chain of title information, property history, and modern and historic photographs. Paint analysis reports may also interest researchers seeking information on period accurate paint colors, and work in dendrochronology could assist in dating wooden buildings, which are cataloged with field and research reports. The architectural drawing collection is another underutilized gem for researchers of architectural history. All counties are represented in the collection and includes many different types of structures from bridges and public buildings to palatial estate houses to barns and tenant houses. The vertical files also hold a wealth of materials, such as research notes, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and photographs, on various subjects, including MIHP properties, historical events, and cities and towns.

MHT has collected thousands of images to document historic properties, historic districts, and archaeological sites in Maryland. These slides, negatives, and photographs are maintained in the library and supplement the images available in the MIHP form. They primarily date from the 1960’s to present, but older photographs can sometimes be found. The architectural images in particular are of tremendous value in the study of Maryland’s history and development. Many of the buildings photographed are no longer extant or represent structures beyond the well known historic sites. In some cases, these are the only known photographs of a structure. The collection also provides examples of many architectural styles, building types, and design features.

An image of the Robert Llewellyn Wright House in Montgomery County, Maryland from the slide and negative collection.

The library also acts as a repository for the reports of archeological studies performed around the state. Compliance reports, artifact catalogs, other associated materials, and site surveys are available to researchers who meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualification Standards for Archeology and their proxies. Members of the public can discover more about archaeological sites and artifacts discovered by exploring the Archeological Synthesis Project and Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory’s Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland.

Oral histories and maps round out the library’s rich collection. The oral histories capture the state’s cultural traditions through written transcripts and audio and video recordings. Themes include African-American communities in Baltimore County, tobacco in Calvert County, lighthouses across the state, and more. Nautical charts, topographic maps, and other historical maps of Maryland and the mid-Atlantic region are also available to researchers.  

The library’s collection is always expanding. While some collection material has yet to be cataloged, visiting the library catalog is the best way to start a search. More information on the library can be found in the user guide and on the library’s web page. The library is open to the public by appointment, Tuesday through Thursday. Librarian Lara Westwood can be contacted (lara.westwood@maryland.gov or 410-697-9546) to schedule library visits or assist with any research inquiries.