Who we are

The Lost Towns Project is a team of professional archaeologists and historians, working closely with the government of Anne Arundel County, Maryland to discover and explore the County's rich heritage. The team is committed to sharing the discovery process of this incredible heritage with the public through hands-on experiences, publications, lectures, and exhibits. In this blog, we will share some of our exciting discoveries, updates, and events. Check out our website at www.losttownsproject.org for much more, or to learn how to become a volunteer or intern! No experience is required to assist us in field investigations, laboratory studies, archival research, and interpretive programs. Join us to rediscover the History in your own backyards!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My Experience as a Historic Preservation Intern with the Lost Towns Project

Meredith Gorres, a historic preservation graduate student at the University of Maryland-College Park, did a great job this past summer as a preservation intern with the Lost Town's Project. She had a multifaceted experience with us, including architectural and historical research, mapping, architectural field survey - she even made it out to Pig Point to dig with us! Thank you, Meredith!

Meredith Gorres, Historic Preservation Intern, Summer 2013

This summer, I worked as a historic preservation intern at the Lost Towns Project. Although an email was sent out to all the historic preservation graduate students at the University of Maryland about the internship later on in the spring semester, I found out about the internship from Stacy Poulos at the end of the fall 2012 semester and promptly sent in my application materials over winter break.

I am quite pleased with my decision to intern at Lost Towns. Even though I had the opportunity to take a paid internship, I chose this one because I put doing what I love above getting paid. I am very satisfied with the projects I got to work on and the fact that I got to perform more professional work, rather than simply making copies for the employees. Reflecting back on my interests and what I got to do over the course of the internship, I realized that everything I did this summer for Lost Towns is everything I enjoy about the preservation field: GIS, deed research, archaeology, general historical research, and map research. I learned how preservation works in the real world, and got a refresher course in GIS and archaeology. I had the opportunity to brush up on and apply what I learned in my first year of graduate school.

Since I live closer to the northern half of Anne Arundel County and my fellow historic preservation intern Sam Young lived closer to the southern half, I chose to survey the twelve properties in the mostly rural North County, and he chose the twelve properties in South County. I was initially a little wary of going out into the field on my own to survey, but everything went perfectly fine, and I had a great time doing it. I got to meet some great people, see some beautiful rural architecture, and really get to know the lay of the land. I found it truly amazing what a range of reactions people can have to finding out that their house is considered historic. The friends of the owners of the first house I stopped at were thrilled that their friends’ house was considered important, and they started telling me about a tobacco shed that used to stand on the property that had to be removed due to storm damage. The owner of another property was worried that his house being listed on the inventory would negatively affect making changes to or selling his house. At the other end of the spectrum was an owner I ended up talking to for over an hour. He had lived in the area for a while and knew quite a bit about everything, or so it seemed. He was thrilled that his house was considered important and told me all the changes that had been made to it since he bought it.

The main reason for researching these properties was to fill in the gaps in their digital and physical files. Some were missing tax parcel information, most needed their chains of title done, most of them needed context maps, and all of them needed up-to-date images, which was the reason for the surveying. Writing up the MIHP forms for these twelve houses was a little intimidating at first, but it ended up being a great refresher and definitely not as difficult as I thought it would be. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t find out more about the boarded-up service station-looking building in Laurel that I was assigned, especially since it is more likely to be demolished than renovated.

The second half of the internship involved doing historical research on the suburb of Brooklyn Park, which is located between Baltimore City and Glen Burnie. The main purpose for researching this area was to identify where historic district lines should be drawn. I had to help identify more vs. less compromised areas in an attempt to determine what should be included and what should be left out. I used ProQuest to look up historical newspaper articles about the developer, John K. Culver, and Brooklyn Park in general. I discovered many colorful and amusing ads from the Baltimore Sun from 1916 and on into the 1920’s. Culver appeared to be famous for advertising lots like a used car salesman. He held all kinds of events (picnics with music, etc.) to try to get people to come out. He mainly targeted men in his ads, especially those who were interested in real estate speculation. He promised a profit if they bought his land today and sold it tomorrow.
In addition to looking up newspaper articles, I also studied some early maps of the area. I looked up the two earliest Sanborn maps for Brooklyn Park, 1932 and the 1942 update, and color-coded them based on whether they were single or two-story homes in order to try to differentiate the foursquares from the bungalows and to make patterns more obvious. It was not a fool-proof way, as not all two-story houses are foursquares and not all single-story houses are bungalows, so there was a margin of error. I colored the lots yellow if there was a detached garage on the property in order to show how prevalent the old-fashioned carriage house mentality was. I also printed out the plat maps of Culver’s five subdivisions and pieced them together to see what sections of Brooklyn Park were developed earlier or later. We scanned the plat maps and colorized Sanborn maps onto the computer and inserted them as layers into GIS, overlaying the modern landscape in order to get a better picture of how things have changed (or stayed the same) through time.

Jane thought originally that the houses in Brooklyn Park, mostly consisting of foursquares and bungalows, might be Wardway houses, as there was a Montgomery Ward warehouse and store across the river in Baltimore. However, I discovered that it did not open until 1925, so that was not too likely. I posted some pictures of some of the houses on the wall of the Sears Homes group I belong to on Facebook, and one of the members started picking out houses here and there that looked like plan houses. She identified a cluster of Standard Home Plans houses on 14th Street, which was farther south than we intended to place the southern historic district boundary. Whoever continues to work on this project will have to investigate the Standard Home Plans angle a little more, as I do not know much about that particular line of plan books. So I left my internship having suggested a southern boundary for the historic district, an eastern boundary (Governor Ritchie Highway), and a vague idea of where the north and west lines should be drawn. It was just the beginning of a very large project, so the final location of the boundaries will ultimately depend on whoever finishes it.

I hope that the contributions I made this summer will be a great help to those who continue what I started. It would make me very happy to know that even one building was saved because of the research I did this summer. Having worked with professional preservationists and getting to meet and talk to property owners, I feel much more prepared for my studio project this fall. I was impressed with how advanced Lost Towns is in the way of GIS. Uploading historical GIS layers is the wave of the future, and Lost Towns is blazing the trail. In conclusion, I had a great experience, and everyone I met and worked with was very friendly and accommodating. They welcomed me to come out and do some volunteer archaeology at Pig Point and to do some research for them if I ever need a paper topic. I would definitely recommend this organization to those looking for a fun yet productive and educational internship.

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