Summary History Of Montgomery Preservation, Inc., 1984-2021
MPI started as the successor to the 1970s Montgomery County Committee of the Maryland Historical Trust out of concern for loss of unprotected landmarks and landscapes as well as the prohibitive cost of restoration. County residents were awakening to the history around us, our national bicentennial inspired interest, and there was concern about preservation being left only to property owners with no tax incentives or financial assistance.
A few local groups (Peerless Rockville and Historic Medley) organized in the 1970s, but County-wide coverage was lacking and the Montgomery County Historical Society focused on history, not historic preservation. M-NCPPC hired a historian to survey the County, and the Locational Atlas & Index of Historic Sites in Montgomery County, MD was published in 1976. Three years later, an ordinance created the Master Plan for Historic Preservation and the Historic Preservation Commission to protect sites, landscapes, districts, and archaeology. Designation was slow and public education needed. Montgomery Preservation (MPI) incorporated in 1984 to create a unified block of preservation supporters that could act on behalf of the nonprofit sector.
MPI quickly found niches to fill. By the mid 1980s, it became the voice for preservation, providing information and supporting designations. In 1987 MPI opened an architectural salvage operation to recycle donated building parts to County residents. Old House Parts operated for 15 years, then closed for lack of a permanent space.
Wishing to applaud deserving owners and advocates, the Awards program was also born in 1987. Mary Ann Tuoey led volunteers who nominated, judged, and presented certificates in the first annual recognition event. To date, about 300 individuals, groups, businesses, and entities have been honored. The program continues to be popular, and recent awards can be viewed in a creative video due to Covid restrictions.
MPI has been fortunate over the years to have strong volunteer leaders such as Bobbi Hahn of Capitol View, Mary Gardner of Brookeville, Lorraine Pearsall of Takoma Park, Judy Christensen of Gaithersburg, Eileen McGuckian of Rockville, Maria Hoey of Burtonsville, and Wayne Goldstein of Kensington. MPI has gone through changes in emphasis as well as leadership. Emphasis on awards and reusing architectural parts was high at first, then expanding the membership and saving the B&O station as a usable restoration came next. Public education and strategies to protect architectural and natural resources increased in importance as the County’s development challenges mounted.
MPI remains an organization of volunteers. Hiring paid assistance has been considered at times, but MPI never found the perfect match nor sustained part-time staff. Nevertheless, MPI fearlessly and passionately protected specific properties and principles of preservation in general. Boards of Directors mostly were composed of individuals representing local nonprofits, and those without one nearby, to maintain a County-wide presence. The current Board has representatives from Germantown Historical Society, Silver Spring Historical Society, Peerless Rockville, Capitol View Park, Historic Medley, Kensington Historical Society, and Historic Takoma, but other areas remain uninvolved.
MPI’s role as an umbrella group for 40-some local history and historic preservation non-profits in Montgomery County is unique and indeed contributes to heritage tourism here. Helping smaller like-minded organizations is always a priority. Examples of assistance include an exhibit on Lyttonsville, Gaithersburg and Rockville legal issues, threats to local landmarks and the Agricultural Reserve, and partnership with Silver Spring Historical Society at the B&O Station. Clearly, non-profits contribute directly to local heritage tourism and programs while accomplishing their individual goals.
Setting an example and Preservation Advocacy
In 1997, when a car smashed into the Silver Spring B&O Station, public outcry was deafening and MPI became the owner of last resort. Eileen McGuckian and Nancy Urban led a team to take title to the property, plan its future, and raise more than $500,000 to restore the station to its 1945 Opening Day appearance.
In 2000, concerned by overnight surprise demolitions, MPI and the Silver Spring Historical Society asked for a Montgomery County Demolition Hotline for endangered buildings over 25 years old. It put them on an alert list and required a 30-day negotiation period. County Executive Ike Leggett agreed and the ordinance passed.
In the 21st century, MPI has focused on the historic former station to exemplify good preservation practices and reutilization. Since re-opening in 2002, the building provides a friendly, affordable meeting place and showcase for local history. After 5 years of sharing with an arts-group tenant, MPI keeps the station open and maintained with a facility committee led by John Sery. Pre-pandemic, the station regularly hosted private rentals and meetings, musicians, railroad buffs, and community events. Wendy Woodland and the Silver Spring Historical Society teamed up to host a popular public open house once a month with creative programs.
Other hands-on opportunities arose along the way. The Lynch house in Potomac was to be demolished when MPI convinced the new owner to permit it to be moved and rehabilitated. The 1860 Champayne house came into MPI ownership through a developer donating one acre in a new Layhill subdivision, coming at a time when hopes were high but a recession had begun, and MPI’s choice of a partner was poor.
MPI attracted more attention as time went on and advocacy projects grew. Although MPI couldn’t purchase or greatly influence the future of the iconic COMSAT building in Clarksburg designed by Cesar Pelli, it arranged a 2006 charrette where many interests produced development options that showed how the old building could be saved alongside the new. Montanverde in Darnestown, home of a War of 1812 hero and in disrepair, was trapped in a downward cycle when MPI pulled parties together and helped a young family purchase and renovate it.
In 2009-10, MPI undertook the challenge of a County Councilman bent on destroying Montgomery County’s historic preservation ordinance. Through a campaign that drew national attention, the Knapp Amendment was roundly defeated. More recently, MPI has addressed threats to burial sites around the County with legislative successes and used its Wayne Goldstein Preservation Action Fund on behalf of issues that ranged from abuse of the preservation process to remove historic properties in Gaithersburg to incompatible development of the Riggs property in Silver Spring. It also published brochures on Montgomery County Historic Designation and the Silver Spring B&O Station. Some efforts were not successful, though MPI believed them worthy of effort; a Demolition by Neglect case in Clarksburg and replacement of the Wheaton Youth Center building are two.
Education and Outreach
Education and Outreach are always MPI priorities. Past public programs and workshops featured how to research your house, repairing old windows, genealogy talks, preservation advocacy in Annapolis, and more. In 2018, MPI organized volunteers for Montgomery County Cemetery Inventory Revisited to document and map all known burial sites; this project resulted in new laws and a Planning position to address cemetery issues.
Fund-Raising was never MPI’s major focus, aside from the B&O station restoration project. Grants (mostly from the Historic Preservation Commission and Heritage Montgomery) helped with Awards, website, and cemetery inventory projects. Income from sales of two donated properties helped.
In 2020-21, MPI has been riding out the COVID-19 pandemic, along with most of Montgomery County’s local cultural, historic, and arts groups. MPI has high hopes for re-opening soon and embarking on one of its most challenging journeys yet… working around construction of the Metropolitan Branch Hiker-Biker Trail through our property and inviting the public back to the B&O Station for open houses, rentals, programs, and enjoyment of local heritage in a beautiful restored historic landmark.
The mission of MPI is to preserve, protect, and promote Montgomery County’s rich architectural heritage and historic landscapes.
To carry out this mission, Montgomery Preservation:
- Advocates for the preservation of Montgomery County’s historic buildings, objects and spaces;
- Partners with groups and individuals who share common preservation goals to create a strong unified voice supporting historic preservation;
- Educates the public about County heritage resources and historic preservation’s role in creating livable, economically viable and distinct communities;
- Provides opportunities for citizens to participate in activities that work toward historic preservation goals;
- Maintains an informative website and information network;
- Hosts events and workshops on topics such as tax credit programs and mansionization, to highlight the importance of historic preservation as public policy;
- Sponsors the Annual Montgomery County Awards for Historic Preservation, which recognizes superior historic preservation efforts by owners, educators and organizations.