The merry month of May is many things to many people in Maryland. It's the Preakness, the beginning of summer on Atlantic Ocean beaches, trekking in Western Maryland mountains. It's also Maryland Preservation Month, which is as wonderful an excuse as any to examine the enormous variety of Maryland communities.
Throughout this month, dozens of exhibits, tours and workshops are being held to "make the connection" between preservation and livable communities, which is the official slogan of the month.
"Preservation is something that has a record, a positive record," observes Fred B. Shoken, president of Baltimore Heritage. That record can be seen in the many spectacular adaptations of old landmark structures to new uses that have been done throughout Maryland in recent years.
The transformation of West Baltimore's Orchard Street Church into headquarters for the Baltimore Urban League is one fine example. Others range from the restored Atlantic Hotel in Berlin, near Ocean City, to the vast antique and collectible emporium in the renovated Savage Mill complex, near Laurel.
One of the intriguing developments of the past few years is the strong emergence of new construction influenced by the old. The fake Victorians that have cropped up in new developments and tradition-flavored new communities such as Kentlands in Montgomery County have created a boom for replication of vintage furnishings (often downsized to fit contemporary room sizes).
They have also spawned a number of magazines that specialize in Victoriana or old house renovation. The choice no longer is strictly between the old and new -- or restored and reconstructed. Purists may regard today's aluminum-siding replication as mongrelization but it aids the cause of historic preservation by expanding the constituency of people harking to the values of the past.
Several Preservation Month programs are scheduled for Annapolis. Among them is a celebration of the state capital's history through storefront exhibits along Maryland Avenue, Main Street and West Street. African-American heritage is being exhibited at the Banneker-Douglass Museum. House and garden tours are being held throughout the state. For more details, call 410-821-6933.