Biographical / Historical
Preservation Maryland was founded in 1931 as the Society for the Preservation of Maryland Antiquities (SPMA) in conjunction with commemorative activities surrounding the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth. Preservation Maryland is one of the state’s and the nation’s preeminent historic preservation organizations on the forefront of advocacy, outreach, and funding. They are nationally recognized as a leader in protecting four centuries of architectural history in Maryland. Preservation Maryland engages communities, restores historic houses, repurposes historic structures, collaborates with local preservation groups, and is one of the state’s strongest advocates for historic preservation. The organization works with other institutions like the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Maryland Historical Trust to sponsor preservation and revitalization projects statewide, a tradition of collaboration well established in the Preservation Maryland records.
The organization was created at a crucial moment in the historic preservation movement. Historic preservation, “drew away from its preoccupation with house museums, and government, organizations and private citizens began considering buildings of less than national significance as worthy of attention.” (Murtagh, 44) The shifted focus of the historic preservation movement entailed architectural knowledge in order to prove the validity of a site's worthiness for preservation. Its original mission was the acquisition, restoration, and marking of historic sites and structures statewide. The SPMA floundered, however, in its early years during the Great Depression and World War II. Robert Garrett, a member of a prominent Baltimore business family, revitalized the organization in the aftermath of World War II.
President of the SPMA from 1945 to 1956, Garrett nourished a lifelong love of history and historic preservation. After his gold-medal success in the 1896 Olympics and prospering in his family’s Baltimore banking firm, Garrett turned his attentions to the historic preservation movement. Preservation Maryland credits him for advancing historic preservation across the State of Maryland. That same year, SPMA initiated its first program at Hampton Mansion after agreeing to become its custodian on behalf of the National Park Service. Over the coming years, members of the SPMA were involved in the creation of the National Council of Historic Sites and Buildings (later the National Trust for Historic Preservation) and the Maryland Historical Trust.
After World War II the historic preservation movement experienced dramatic shifts in priorities in the recognition of state and locally significant historic sites, the SPMA redirected its efforts to advocacy, funding, outreach, and education. The first volume of The Phoenix , the organization's newsletter, was published during the period of transition. George T. Harrison, the President of SPMA, stated that the purpose of the Society was to preserve and restore historic properties such as houses, gardens, and monuments by purchase, gift lease, or administration. SPMA offered aid to other groups or individuals in their preservation efforts to protect endangered landmarks or historic properties and was deeply involved in all facets of preservation activities. SPMA established a revolving fund for preservation efforts, supported legislation at all government levels, and offered talks by the country’s leading preservationists. Preservation Maryland carries on this tradition of providing funding, identifying endangered landmarks, advocating for legislation, and offering educational events about historic preservation. The organization’s purpose gradually shifted from direct administration and stewardship to advocacy. During this transition, the organization shortened its name to Preservation Maryland in the 1980s.
Preservation Maryland frequently works alongside the Maryland Historical Trust in its advocacy efforts, including a 1997 report entitled The Value of Historic Preservation in Maryland . The report highlighted that through its state-level historic preservation programs, Maryland created jobs, increased household incomes, and “had an overall impact in excess of one billion dollars” between 1977 and 1997. The Maryland Historical Trust also collaborates with Preservation Maryland to sponsor annual preservation conferences and workshops. In 2000, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Task Force on the Preservation and Enhancement of Maryland’s Heritage Resource’s preliminary report recognized a strong tradition of nonprofit private volunteer organizations, of which Preservation Maryland is one of the oldest.
By 2011, Preservation Maryland had expanded its advocacy to new media by maintaining a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and an official blog. They also converted The Phoenix to electronic form. Preservation Maryland involves itself in advocacy efforts for increasing historic preservation appropriations at the Maryland General Assembly, and directs financial resources towards the stewards of historic sites rather than maintaining the sites themselves. These efforts continue under different names and new leadership, but Preservation Maryland’s remains at the forefront of statewide historic preservation initiatives.