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 offers a wonderful excuse to examine the enormous variety of well-preserved or recycled historic buildings in this state.
Throughout May, dozens of exhibits, tours and workshops "make the connection" between "preservation and livable communities," which are the two official slogans 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 throughout Maryland in recent years.
The transformation of the Orchard Street Church into headquarters for the Baltimore Urban League is just one example. Others range from the restored Atlantic Hotel in Berlin to the vast antique and collectible emporium housed 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 like 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 specializing 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 all that aids the cause of historic preservation by expanding the constituency of people harking to the values of the past.
Baltimore Heritage is sponsoring a number of walking tours of historic areas during May. Information about them -- and about other events -- can be obtained by phoning 433-7985.
Several special programs are being held in the Baltimore suburbs. Among them is a Saturday heritage homes tour in Catonsville and Oella (410-747-6620) and a May 15 workshop on preservation tools and techniques in Ellicott City (410-514-7600). Information about house and garden pilgrimages throughout Maryland is available by dialing 410-821-6933.