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Preservation Commission and Heritage Areas: Perfect Partners for Protecting History

July 16 2018

Toward the end of this week (July 19-22), the National Association of Preservation Commissions is gathering in downtown Des Moines, Iowa for their annual conference. Hundreds of commission members (and the staff who support them) will take part in the multi-day event examining issues related to how America’s cities and towns work to preserve historic communities.

Not only will representatives from Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) be on site, the heritage area’s Director of Historic Preservation Jason Vaughan will be among the attendees. BNHA is delighted to participate with our sister national heritage areas, Freedom’s Frontier (Kansas/Missouri) and Silos & Smokestacks (Iowa), on a presentation on how heritage areas and preservation commissions can work together.

CHAP and BNHA enjoy a close relationship. CHAP spearheaded the process that brought together Baltimore’s historic sites, cultural organizations, and local business and civic groups to create the Baltimore City Heritage Area. Baltimore was one of the first in the state’s heritage areas program, recognized in 1997. CHAP also took the lead in developing the heritage area’s management plan, a significant undertaking to guide the future of the heritage area and secure funding from the state of Maryland.

Over the past two decades, CHAP and BNHA have worked as partners to help promote and preserve Baltimore’s historic sites and neighborhoods. Both organizations served on a city taskforce to find uses for city-owned historic landmarks, such as the Peale Museum and P.S. 103, Thurgood Marshall’s Elementary School in Old West Baltimore. More recently, CHAP has been a strong supporter of BNHA’s effort to take on stewardship and occupancy of a long-vacant city-owned landmark. BNHA enthusiastically promotes local landmark and historic district designations. The heritage area often provides supporting testimony before the commission, such as for the landmark designation for American Legion Federal Post No. 19 in West Baltimore and downtown’s Howard Street Historic District.

When funding for the city’s historic marker program was cut from CHAP’s budget, the heritage area stepped in to continue the program. BNHA was also on hand to assist with the design and fabrication of contextual signage for the city’s four Confederate monuments.

CHAP has also been an active partner in BNHA’s grant programs. Commission staff provides insights and technical expertise during grant reviews for the Small Capital and Heritage Investment Grant programs.

BNHA is grateful for the special relationship with this extremely important city commission. As BNHA looks to the future, with a proposed boundary expansion, expansion of our grants programs, and projects like creating new urban heritage trails in downtown Westside and Federal Hill, we look forward to continuing to work with the commission, its commissioners, and its dedicated staff.

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