March 13, 2017
Cemeteries need preserving too! This week, Eileen McGuckian is here to fill us in on the ins and outs of cemetery preservation in general and in her home of Rockville, Maryland. Come explore some of our most tangible means of memory on this week’s PreserveCast. Also note! This week we’re spreading the preservation love as we welcome guest host Meagan Baco.
[Nick Redding] When you picture a historic cemetery, you probably imagine a place that’s calm and serene. But when you picture cemetery preservation, the fact is that the work done by folks like our guest this week Eileen McGuckian requires a lively energy and lots of grassroots enthusiasm. In that same can-do spirit, our special guest host this week will be Preservation Maryland’s Director of Communications, Megan Baco. Eileen has got a lot to say so hitting pause would be a grave mistake on this week’s Preserve Cast.
From Preservation Maryland Studios in the historic podcast district of Baltimore, this is Preserve Cast.
Peerless Rockville’s Beginnings
[Meagan Baco] So I’m Meagan Baco. I’m the Director of Communications with Preservation Maryland and I’m sitting here with Eileen McGuckian who has been interested in the historical value in preservation of cemeteries for decades and is a charter member and the current president of the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites. She maintains her passion as an advocate for Montgomery County historic places by volunteering, it seems, everywhere. Peerless Rockville to cemetery association boards, Montgomery History Speaker’s Bureau, and the Montgomery Preservation Inc. organization. Welcome, Eileen.
[Eileen McGuckian] Thank you, nice to be here.
[MB] It sounded like you already had a busy morning on your way into the studio with a phone call about what could be a “preservation emergency.” Is that a common occurrence in your life?
[EM] Fortunately, it’s not common. But unfortunately, it’s more common than I would like. That’s really how the cemetery preservation movement got going in the 1990s here is through emergencies. And all of a sudden it’s, “We better stop this. We better have some codification of what people really want.”
[MB] And the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites, I suppose is the proactive way to prevent this kind of emergency responses from happening. And Preservation Maryland has entered a partnership with the Coalition. So I thought maybe we’d start with introducing the Coalition and how we got to start to get to know each other and the projects we’re working on.
[EM] Well, fortunate for us, we were selected as one of the second year of Preservation Maryland Six-to-Fix. And the plight of historic cemeteries in Maryland as a whole is the topic. Our organization is very happy to be the vehicle and I think it’s going to be a very good partnership. And we’re really just starting out right now, although some things have been happening already. The Coalition was formed by a woman named Barbara Sieg, who was horrified at the desecration of graves near her home in Ellicott City. And there were no state laws, county laws, moral laws to stop that from happening, and she almost singlehandedly made sure that that particular cemetery, St. Mary’s, was saved and a couple of other cemeteries nearby that also were being neglected. And she also started the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites. That was in 1991. And when I chanced to meet her just a year or two later in the halls of the House of Delegates – who knows what we were both testifying about or showing that day – I was so glad to meet a kindred spirit, that she’s been my inspiration. She’s still around.
[MB] And had you been involved in cemetery preservation before meeting her?
[EM] Well, I can tell you the story of how I got involved in cemetery preservation if you’d like.
[EM] Okay. Well, okay. I’m going to go back to my parents. My mom is a teacher, grade school teacher, but a super volunteer, so “get out there,” “you care about something, go do something about it.” My dad… a little less activist, but he loved history, so we spent a lot of time around history. I ended up as a high school history teacher, which I loved. I’ve almost always lived in suburban Washington area. Moved to Montgomery County in time for high school, and started just kind of looking around my backyard and saying, “Gee, there’s that history and that’s the same thing that I’ve been reading about in books all of these years.” And walking down the street and seeing this absolutely marvelous Victorian architecture, roads leading into the center of Rockville, which is the county seat of Montgomery County, and realized that there were other things. That you didn’t have to only read about history with, at that point, great White men doing important national things. But you could see how all of that played down in your local level. So it was pretty easy to make that choice. We moved to Rockville. I was 22 years old, very impressionable; and I started looking around me and there two things going on. One is that St. Mary’s Church, which is the oldest continuously used religious building in Rockville since 1817, was about to be – it was being discussed about whether it would be demolished to make way for the modern new church. Because the population of Montgomery County, and Rockville in particular, was really exploding in the 1960s. And so I was sort of on the edge of watching that happen and watched how the congregation was able to tell the diocese that it wanted to keep its little chapel, which it still cherishes and uses all the time now. So that was one thing that was going on.
Another is that Route 28, which goes through the middle of Rockville along West Montgomery Avenue was about to widened. The state could widen it. And to do that would have taken up the front yards of many of these Victorians that have been there since the 1880s and ’90s. So we neighbors got together and we started researching. And I organized the research because here I am, the teacher, and the organizer, and the volunteer organizer like my mom. So one person was doing research in The Montgomery County Sentinels, in the gossip columns. When was this house built, for whom, and for how much? Another person was doing deeds. Another person was doing tax records. Another person was doing architectural descriptions. And we ended up going to the new Historic District Commission, which really came out of that crisis with St. Mary’s. So the Historic District Commission is operating, and they’re not being very proactive about doing the research and that kind of thing. So I backed the right non-political party in Rockville that year, and the mayor was asking me if I’d like to get on the Commission. And so I did and I ended up chairing it about a year later, and kind of took that through the designation process. So that was good. And I stayed on the Rockville H.D.C. for a number of years.
But then there was a change of city administrations. And the next administration was not as pro-preservation as the previous one. So the owners of the very few properties who had not willingly gone into the historic districts were asking to get out. And at that point, we realized that we – being these neighbors who had been changed into activists – realized that we needed a independent agency/entity that would be responsible for protecting historic resources. So we formed Peerless Rockville in May of 1974. And Peerless Rockville immediately got to work with, well, being able to protect the historic districts from being decimated by a change in zoning. And that worked out very well, although we lost a few properties in the historic districts and later on recaptured some of them.
Saving Wire Hardware
[MB] One of my favorite preservation stories pretty much in all of Maryland is the story of Wire Hardware, also in Rockville. So I approached that story from hearing about it, I think, in the ’90s. A group of people put together a kind of whimsical campaign of saying, “I love this building.” And their donation thermometer was shaped like a heart. And I think it’s one of these very early instances of now what young preservation groups call heart-bombing. And I remember, last year, I got to put a blog together for Preservation Maryland. But if you want to tell us briefly about Wire Hardware, if you were involved with that.
[EM] I will. Yes. So Wire Hardware is the only cast-iron building left in the center of Rockville after we underwent urban renewal in the 1960s. Everyone would reverse that now if we could, including the people who voted for it at that point. But it seemed like a good idea, that you could change your downtown to something that you really wanted it to be, and the federal government would pay 90% of it. But so this is one of the few buildings left. It was right across the little back road from the train station, which was going to be demolished for Metro. And it had been cut off ever since Hungerford Drive became the Rockford Bypass in the 1950s, so it was out of the way. It kept losing business. Ultimately, the business when up to Gude Drive, where their hardware stores were relocating, out of the way of Metro because that had been a light industry area for a very long time, since the early 1900s.
And Wire Hardware, which originally was Welsh’s General Store, was located there because of its proximity to the railroad. So Peerless Rockville is attending a – or I’m attending on behalf of Peerless Rockville – an auction of all the parts of the Wire Building that could be sold because they wanted to get their money out of it. And then they would sell the property itself, very close to the courthouses and town center, very valuable land. Also, [it was] right next to where Metro has just gone in. I’m there looking at what we might want to buy, what little piece of this and that and then several board members come up behind me. They didn’t quite trust me. I would probably buy everything and they ended up buying everything that could have been bought out of the building itself. So–
[MB] So this is supplies or equipment?
[EM] They were shelves and rolling ladders to get to those shelves on the walls. They were display cases where you’d put all your – well, at one time for the general store they had penny candies behind them. They were a huge scale where you could stop outside and weigh your car before or after you put the coal, the lumber, whatever else you were buying, in it. So items like that and we bought everything and had our foot in the door literally for Wire Hardware. And so when the last owner, the last Wire was ready to sell it, he came to us and said, “Would you like to buy it?” And we said, “We’d love to but it.”
[MB] But it is $1? Because that’s our budget.
[EM] Yeah, our offer was for $1 and they brought out their $850,000 appraisal and said, “That’s what it is.” So we ended up being in the middle. Well, not even in the middle. We ended up paying $125,000 for it. And right after we signed the contract with him, someone came in and offered them double the amount of money for the building. And that would’ve been fine with us except their plan was to gut the building. All the furnishings, all the floors, the proprietor’s office, and all sorts of things. It would’ve looked like a rectangular office building, so we said, “No… we would not give up our place. We have a contract,.” And the attorney for Wire said, “No, you don’t have a contract. We’re not going to honor the contract.” So we took them to court to fulfill the contract. And the lower court, the Circuit Court in Montgomery County, said that there wasn’t really a contract, that the owner had a right to break the contract. We took it up to the Court of Special Appeals and 18 months later a unanimous three… A judge [of] Special Appeals gave it to us. However, it gave us 30 days to pay the purchase price, so–
[MB] And what was the purchase price?
[EM] $125,000. That was a lot of money in 1992, ’93. So, we went around everywhere we could and we got loans. Personal loans and Preservation Maryland helped with a bridge loan, as well. Also helped with a little bit of investigating about how–
[MB] Well, good for [crosstalk] I’m glad we were a part of it.
[EM] Yes, yes, yes. So we then bought the building, and here we are with a building that is leaking. The roof is leaking on all four sides. There’s a foot and a half of water in the basement. It has all sorts of problems. So we just tackle those one by one by one as you would any preservation project. And we ended up… it’s a wonderful success story.
[MB] You paid back the loans –
[EM] We paid back the loans, yeah.
[MB] – and I think it’s an office space and a medical office space, so it lives on thanks to Peerless Rockville.
[EM] It lives on. It’s still right next to the station, which was moved 30 feet south and west, and that’s being reused. If I were doing that again, I would probably… I mean, we looked at Wire Hardware. We looked at the B&O for a museum for Rockville. We didn’t have the money and the resources to fix up the building to the standards we wanted .Or to any standards, actually. And then to operate a nonprofit entity like that… so we were looking for reuses, and they’ve worked out fine.
[MB] That’s a great story about Wire Hardware and is one of my favorite stories in general, and I had no idea that I owe it all to Peerless Rockville about knowing that story and to you in that sense. What was one of the first projects related to cemeteries that you may have worked done with Peerless Rockville?
[EM] Well, the first was when the Montgomery County Historical Society approached us as we were working with several other historic properties and said that “The Baptist Church has given us… we’ve taken title to the cemetery, and we’ve had it for about 10 years, and we don’t really know what we want to do with it. And you’re preservation, we’re education, would you like this cemetery?” So we purchased the cemetery for $1. They gave us another $100 that they collected from donations to maintain the cemetery, and we proceeded to learn about cemeteries.
So one way we did it was to have an adopt-a-stone project. So we called for volunteers. All volunteer – back to my mom again – all volunteers. Would you like to adopt a family grouping of stones or a single stone? Would you like to research it? Would you like to see what kind of structural conditions this particular stone has? Can you tell the story behind it? And that was so well-received, and I think that the only conservation we did at that point was to teach people how to clean stones with a soft brush and with water, and they loved it. Oh, we even had a Tom Sawyer Day. We built an appropriate fence around it, the one that shows in the 1890 photo, and we had people give us marbles in order to be able to get paintbrushes so they could make the [fence] – a la Tom Sawyer. So that’s how we learned about a cemetery. But we also learned that there were graves that we couldn’t see, that we knew about from various sources. We also learned something about conservation and that kind of thing.
A few years later and after Wire Hardware was gone, we decided that we’d approach… We decided that we’d look at the whole issue of cemeteries essentially as a building type. And we turned out to find about 15 cemeteries within the city limits of Rockville. And some of them were huge like Rockville Cemetery, which goes back to the 1730s; or Parklawn, which goes to the 1950s. And others were in people’s backyards because there was not a cemetery for Black residents of Rockville before 1880. So Charlotte Penny started selling 3′ x 10′ lots in her background and was buried there. This is right across from the city’s swimming pool right now on Martin’s Lane.
[MB] And now is that an identified cemetery now?
[EM] It is. It’s actually a designated cemetery with the city of Rockville now. It’s called Haiti Cemetery. The community is named Haiti.
[MB] Thanks, Eileen. We’re going to take a quick break, and we’ll be back about how folks can get involved with cemetery preservation.
And now it’s time for a Preservation Explanation
[Stephen Israel] Hollywood. So many famous people, such a rich history. And I mean, talk about a tourist destination. Oh, you thought I was talking about Hollywood, California? No, I’m talking about the Hollywood of the East Coast, Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. You see, in the nineteenth century, cemeteries were thought of a little bit differently than they are today. For many, cemeteries were more than a place to honor the dead. They were a place to celebrate the beauty of life in the living world. The idea was to utilize the land around the cemetery because cemeteries create such a unique place for architecture and art, like [how] gravestones and ornamentation can mesh with natural beauty. And they go largely undisturbed. Some would even argue that garden cemeteries like Hollywood, which was first conceived of in 1847, were the first national parks. I mean, protected outdoor spaces that were really open to the public sounds a little like a park to me.
Hollywood Cemetery residents include presidents James Monroe and John Tyler; Supreme Court Justices Peter Daniel and Lewis Powell; six Virginia governors; as well as many notable figures from the American South and the Civil War, including Jefferson Davis, Jeb Stuart, and George Pickett. Star-studded may not be quite the right term, but it’s definitely a place that’s filled with a lot of American history. Because of this and because of the beautiful landscape, people have been visiting Hollywood almost as soon as it was founded, taking tours or even to just bring a picnic.
There are a lot of stories to tell. But one of the big ones that really put Hollywood on the map, especially as a tourist destination in its day, was the reinterment of President James Monroe. Originally interred New York Marble Cemetery in 1831, Monroe’s remains were moved to his native Virginia over 20 years later in 1858 at the urging of Virginia’s governor, Henry Wise. Plus the owners of Hollywood Cemetery; they had a little to do with it, too. The repatriation was a massive spectacle at the time, the body being moved on a steam ship and accompanied by the National Guard. With tensions high in the 1850s between North and South, there was a lot of discussion at the time over the politics. It was a big focus for everyone. They were wondering if it was a unifying event or a display of sort of sectionalist state and regional pride. Today, the site of Monroe’s tomb is a National Historic Landmark. It’s nicknamed the Bird Cage, because of a cast iron cage surrounding the coffin that a lot of people think of as a small-scale architectural wonder. And of course, Hollywood Cemetery remains one of the most prominent garden cemeteries in the country – if not the world – hosting the second highest visitor count among U.S. cemeteries, only behind Arlington National Cemetery. Now, garden cemeteries are just a part of cemetery preservation. Let’s get back to Meagan and Eileen to hear more on PreserveCast. But first, we have a quick word from Nick.
[Nick Redding] This week’s episode of PreserveCast is brought to you by Preservation Maryland Six-To-Fix. Six-To-Fix is an innovative program designed to help save threatened historic resources across our state. Preservation Maryland invests seed funding, expert professional staff, volunteer time, state-wide advocacy, and outreach efforts to move projects towards a better state of preservation. Rather than creating a list of threatened buildings, we’re doing something about it. If you’d like to make a difference, join the cause today by visiting SixToFix.org. There, you can learn more about the sites we’ve selected over the past few years, and make a donation to help save Maryland’s history and heritage. Together, we’re making a difference and saving the very best of Maryland.
Do you have questions? We may have answers. If at any point, during this podcast, you’ve thought of a question that you have for us or maybe one of our guests, we’d love to hear about it. You can send an email to email@example.com, and we’ll try and answer it, right here, on the air, on the next episode of PreserveCast.
How to Engage Your Community in Historic Preservation
[MB] So I really appreciate that you mentioned that, when you gather volunteers at a cemetery, you call it a work party. And I know that cemetery preservation, and the way that you’ve described it and, actually, a lot of preservation, is driven by an individual, with a particular interest, with the time and passion to do this. So, for somebody who sees a cemetery that, they think, needs assistance, that they want to offer, what’s something that folks can do, kind of, immediately, without too much of a commitment?
[EM] Good question. I think, with any preservation project, you need to figure out who cares. And who cares for a cemetery could be a relative. They could be a neighbor who [has] noticed this cemetery. They could be someone who realizes that the value of cemeteries many people it’s a very passionate, moral issue, what we owe to our ancestors, to remember them and not neglect them. There are lots of different ways to come to this. So you have to figure out who really cares and then, you have to keep them caring. You have to give them a reason to keep coming back. You have to make it fun. You’re sloshing around in the mud. You’re picking up things that people have thrown there for years. You’re–
[MB] Isn’t that the fun [laughing]?
[EM] — getting– isn’t that fun [laughing]?
[MB] Isn’t that the fun?
[EM] No, it’s not the fun. The fun is wearing a shirt, like the one I’m wearing, that says, “Tempus fugit,” on it, “time flies.” It’s the fun of finding a piece of a stone and having someone tell you, “That’s wonderful. That’s what we’re looking for,” or to see a little row of stones that you couldn’t see, before you took down that tree and hauled off the things that were next to it. People are there to learn, as well. And they, often, are there with– it’s a multi-generational thing. The D.A.R.s bring their husbands, and the husbands really get into it. The younger folks bring their kids. Eagle Scouts need projects, and we have lots of Eagle Scouts do that. I always give a tour of the property, before we start, and tours is a wonderful way to get people engaged. And we often get people to come to whatever cemetery we’re working on, or interested in, by offering a tour, a civil war tour. The two places that have Scott Fitzgerald was buried in Rockville, is a real tour of interest. But you can make a story that resonates with people out of anything because it’s in their backyards and because you can relate it to some American history theme, to people who lived here, and who hasn’t wondered about who walked these paths before, and what kind of lives did they have, and that kind of thing? And students are great people to bring in on this. Many teachers are involved, whether it’s for a specific class, and the latest one I’ve been working with are human geography classes in the high schools, and those kids go home with statistics about individuals, and make these graphs and do research on them. So that’s how you get people to come in and then do the hard work as well.
[MB] The fun that I’ve had in any sort of cemetery cleanup comes definitely from discovering something new. I love the designs on the headstones and the thought that somebody carved this then a family member designed it and had an idea of what their loved one would really want to have represent them through eternity and through their life. Recently, I had the opportunity with our preservation associate Michelle Eshelmen to help out cleaning a cemetery. And just kind of showed up with gloves and iPhones. So we used something called the BillionGraves app. And this let us kind of take photographs, geocode them to a location, match a headstone and a footstone, and this all went into what I assume is an enormous database.
[EM] Yes, yes.
Tools of the Trade: Technology for Cemetery Preservation
[MB] What else are other roles of emerging technologies in cemetery preservation?
[EM] I’d say the technology is emerging at the same time we’re doing the same old things. Which is discovering cemeteries, trying to figure out who was there, reading what’s on the tombstones, looking at the symbolism as well, and if you’re really lucky, you’ll find a monument maker who boldly has inscribed his name and his city of occupation on the back. So, people are still transcribing graves, they are still dusting baby powder on there so they can photograph them properly with plain cameras, digital cameras. But I’d say, well, Roots is probably part of it, which started getting people back into the cemeteries and into their own genealogy. And ancestry.com has been a sponsor for a lot of this. Find A Grave is the first really large– I don’t know if it’s international. Probably a little bit international. Certainly throughout the US and [related?] countries. As many people as you can get to volunteer to do that. And some of them use the GPS, some of them– but all of them photograph, all of them transcribe. And it all gets dumped into a database. Proliferation of the internet has just had multiple concentric circles where people will look up a cemetery where their loved one might be buried, fill out that part of their genealogical chart, and go on to figure out how else this does. So Find A Grave is one really good place. And I think BillionGraves project is taking that to the next level in terms of technology. But it’s really still the same thing. It’s people going out, noticing that there is a cemetery there that people once cared enough in their backyard or at a more formal cemetery or a churchyard to bury people in that.
[MB] So maybe the equipment has changed a little bit but the desire and the ethics behind it is still very much the same.
[EM] Right, absolutely. And what you’re talking about is the equipment and the methodology of documentation and mapping, and that’s really a part of it. Anyone who gets involved with any of these cemeteries would kill for a map of the cemetery. The section of the church used to say, “Yes, there’s a burial plot so we can put you there.” Most of these places don’t have such a map. So the documentation is a really big part of it. But then you may have areas where you want to know whether graves exist, the Baptist Cemetery in Rockville for example, we had ground penetrating radar going there and that was pretty early on. That was in the 1980s, it’s much more sophisticated now. Rockville Cemetery had a little– we bought a day’s worth of ground penetrating radar but you can still probe with a rod to see that. You can do a gentle scrape with an archeologist involved, but I wouldn’t go down any further than three inches for that. You can use satellite imagery, you can use drones, if you have the ability to do that. There’s something called a penetrometer. You walk around with a dial and it tells you how compacted the soil is. In other words, has the soil been disturbed to put a grave there?
[MB] I wouldn’t have thought to use that to measure that, but it makes sense.
[EM] Yes, it does. Well, that’s what you’re looking at is how people have used the same property over years. So there is a lot of good technology. And then digitally, for records, you have the documents. And I have been just really impressed with what Rockville Cemetery has done over the last three years. We’ve gone digital. And we’re talking about 250 years of written ledgers. Thousands of pages with little notes saying things like, “Here’s the family plot here and there are three plots left so we’ll put this one person in here.” Or one ledger note that I really love says, “F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald have been moved from Rockville Cemetery, where they were first buried, to be buried in Saint Mary’s, where he really wanted them to be buried.”
[MB] I was going to ask, who usually maintains a ledger like that? Or who would typically have the map? In hearing about cemeteries, a lot of the issues is in the hangups come in, who owns it, and who is required to maintain it. So it’s hard not to get, for me even, frustrated in hearing why is it abandoned and who actually owns it and who’s responsibility is it and why does a group have to exist to, as wonderful as they are, spend their time and their money and charitable contributions to do something like this. Besides ownership, what are some of the other tangles that you try and fix as a cemetery preservationist?
[EM] Okay. Well, I think you have to put it in the context of some 10,000 cemeteries estimated to be in Maryland.
[EM] And I’m trying to break that down and I imagine that about a third of them are family cemeteries. So they’re likely to be in your backyard and you’re likely to have a family bible, if you’re lucky, that says who was buried there when. Another big chunk are religious organizations. So there are churches with Black and White congregations all over Maryland. And they kept their records as best they could, or as best the person who was keeping the records would keep them, and if you’re lucky those ledgers still exist. If you’re not, you have to figure it out for yourself. Another third might be fraternal organizations; they might be community cemeteries. They would be non-profits. Rockville Cemetery turned from a church-related cemetery in 1880 to a non-profit, a community cemetery with representatives from all the Protestant, White congregations of Rockville. So they all have different things.
Ownership is a real issue. When someone buys a plot or is given a plot in a churchyard, or on their farm, or whatever, or if they’re buying it from a cemetery business, they are purchasing the plot – they’re actually purchasing the right to bury in that plot. And then the cemetery takes care of the rest of it. And, from what I can see, not until we started becoming a more populous state, a more mobile society… descendants moved away, congregations left and you have people who might be in a subdivision and there’s a little cemetery plot that the developer has been good enough to preserve right there. And what are the responsibilities? And I’d say that’s probably about when the Coalition was formed. In the early 1990s, governments started saying, “Maybe there is some responsibility here.” So we went from the only criminal act that you could do in a cemetery would be to go down into the graves and pull out someone’s full teeth to descendants now having access to cemeteries. No matter who owns it, no matter whose backyard it’s in, no matter what shape it’s in – if you are a descendant, you can get into it. And then also, it is also a crime to vandalize cemeteries.
[MB] It sounds like a lot of cemetery preservation and a lot of what the coalition does is outreach and education. What is something that is a common misunderstanding or something that people don’t get about what you all do?
[EM] I think that cemeteries– some people don’t like cemeteries. I buy that. Some people don’t like Victorian houses either, that’s okay. But it’s more than genealogy. It’s more than people who are looking for the famous people. Every person in a cemetery has wonderful stories and it’s really rewarding and fun to research them, to find out about them, to share them with people when you’re giving a tour walking around the cemetery and every cemetery has it. I could do a Civil War tour, a mayors’ tour, a baseball player’s tour. Anything like that around Rockville Cemetery. I think that people are really surprised that even though they may not like cemeteries, they are surprised that people would either abandon them and just leave them there to the wild or they would actually overtly desecrate them. People are really surprised at that, but it happens a lot. There are many, many, hundreds, maybe thousands of abandoned cemeteries and neglected cemeteries in Maryland. But I think that cemeteries, and partly it’s the Six to Fix recognition, but cemeteries are beginning to hold their own as building types if you want to call them that. They’re not all above ground, but there’s underwater archaeology as well. So they’re somewhere between an archaeological type of resource and a historic resource, but they’re valuable. They’re important to us, morally, and to ground us, literally, in the way we live and to see who lived here before us, and to find out what’s in our own backyards because everyone has something that they can relate to through a little cemetery and people who walked these paths before us.
[MB] Like so much of preservation, you can’t assume that it is going to continue exist without groups like the Coalition, like Rockville Cemetery, and the groups that you’ve been able to put together. That is one of the major takeaways I’ll take from learning from you. From studying historic preservation, I would have assumed cemeteries – because they seem like an immediate place to research history and past – wouldn’t be threatened. But we know that – and just the other day we were testifying in favor of a bill that would allow municipalities to take care of cemeteries – and so I really appreciate all the ways that you and the Coalition have created different situations and different angles to tackle this issue. And Preservation Maryland is happy to partner with you on this. We’re excited to work with you at Six-To-Fix, and all the work we have yet to accomplish in the coming year.
[EM] Great, great. I should tell you – and maybe this will go in there somewhere – every person on the board of the Coalition came from the experience of a particular cemetery in where they live. So it’s a group of all volunteers who care about a specific or a group of specific cemeteries or, in general, care about historic cemeteries in Maryland.
[MB] So if you had to pick just one of the 10,000 – which you say is a low estimate of cemeteries in Maryland – which one is particularly close to you?
[EM] Well, my base is Rockville so I’m going to say either Rockville… I’m on two boards, Higgins Cemetery and Rockville Cemetery. And Rockville Cemetery has so much tour value and I’m an educator so it’s fun to say that, “F. Scott Fitzgerald and Walter Johnson still [are] here.” And, “we have an equal number of Union and Confederate soldiers buried here,” and that kind of thing. So I love Rockville Cemetery but my answer is going to be: it’s the cemetery that I’m working on now, whatever is is and whenever that is. It’s the one that seems like there’s a crisis. There’s an immediacy. It’s a problem that needs to be solved. And maybe it won’t be solved or resolved the way previous ones have, but we’ll figure out a way to do it. So that’s my favorite cemetery at the time.
[MB] So you have lots of favorites because I know you’re very busy and active and history is better and better preserved for it. So thank you so much for your time and your expertise and letting us record it and hear from you, Eileen. Thank you.
[EM] Thank you. I’ve enjoyed talking with you.
This podcast was developed under a grant from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, a unit of the National Park Service. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Preservation Maryland and the Maryland Milestones Heritage Area and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the National Park Service or the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.
This week’s episode was produced and engineered by Ben and Stephen Israel. Our executive producer is Aaron Marcavitch. Our theme music is performed by the band Pretty Gritty. You can learn more about them at their website: PrettyGrittyMusic.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter @PG_PrettyGritty.
To learn about Preservation Maryland or this week’s guests, visit: PreservationMaryland.org. While there, you can check out our blog and learn about what’s current in historic preservation. We’re also on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and Twitter @PreservationMD. And of course, a very special thank you to our listeners. Keep preserving!