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A Message from our President & CEO: What Is Historic Preservation?


“What is historic preservation?” my 14-year-old niece recently asked me. “What exactly does Historic Annapolis do?”  

Hmmm. How to answer what is seemingly an easy question. Do I launch into Preserve, Protect, Connect? Do I speak to the day-to-day care of state buildings that belong to all of us? Do I speak to the importance of making connections with our past and building community?  

“We work to keep what makes Annapolis special,” was my reply.  

When I asked what she thought made downtown Annapolis special, her response was simple: “Bricks.” What else? She said she liked the way it seemed both small and big. She liked that she felt the water’s presence all around. She said it felt “real, not fake.” She said she liked getting ice cream with her friends. 

I could not agree more.  

Much of what we do here at HA is to maintain that small town character. We work to maintain the views that define our landscape. We work to celebrate and protect scale and the rhythm of the streets. It’s the way 300 years of architecture work in harmony, balancing new and old, that makes Annapolis special.

I am very proud of the work we do as preservationists, and I’m exceptionally proud of the team of professionals whom I have the pleasure to work with every day. We have plans for a wonderful year ahead and are committed to working with the broader community to advocate for what you value. This fall we are launching an expanded marker program, continuing the restoration of a generation at the Brice House, and broadening our educational programs and universal accessibility so that everyone feels welcome at our sites. Preservation work takes many forms.  

We invite you to stop by the William Paca House & Garden on Wednesday, August 30th as we host a Preservation Open House on our beautiful garden terrace. Drop in between 4:30 and 6:30 pm to meet the HA team and talk about historic preservation, what we do, and how you can be involved. We want to hear from you what you believe needs to be done to protect what makes Annapolis special. We want to hear your thoughts about City Dock, the largest public infrastructure project in the history of our historic town. I recently testified before City Council, requesting the reconvening of the City Dock Action Committee, because I believe community participation in this project will greatly enhance the outcome (read my comments below). Much like our City leadership, we are excited about what’s to come, and we want to make sure it’s the best it can be. 

I hope you can stop by our open house and show your support for preservation (please register here!). And of course, we will bring the ice cream.

HA’s President & CEO General Comment at Special City Council Meeting, 7/24/23

My name is Karen Theimer Brown and I am the President and CEO of Historic Annapolis.

I am requesting the City reconvene the City Dock Action Committee (CDAC) to review and discuss the current City Dock Plans.

We know you have had several meetings on this very complex project. Project managers have presented to various city committees. Most recently, 6 weeks ago they presented at a City Council work session, where the public could not comment. The CDAC – 100 people who have a vested interest and expertise associated with this project – have not been briefed for over 6 months, and prior to that were not briefed since February 2022. This group has not convened in person since COVID.

Admittedly, this is a very complex, major project that has a multitude of moving parts. Design aspects of the plan are continually changing and adapting. Still, we’ve been told by Eileen Fogarty that you are now in the design and construction phase. For being that far advanced in the planning process, we have not seen sections so we can understand how the parts relate to one another. This leads to conflation of aspects of the project and blurs the line between public and private development.

It’s a public project and it’s a complicated project—and one that will be better with continued public involvement. In light of the fact that you are bringing on a new Planning Director and a new Director of Public Works, this is an opportunity for them to hear where there is consensus, and, where there are elements that need further discussion to ensure they align with the guiding principles set forth in the plan that was endorsed by you—City Council.

Historic Annapolis was a leading partner in this project since its inception. We are very invested in and committed to the success of this project. As a reminder, we funded and managed the ULI TAP and we subsequently brought on Eileen as a consultant to help organize robust community involvement to develop the plan. Together, we created a process that was considered a model in community-based planning. HA continues our commitment by supporting the legacy subcommittee, supporting the resiliency legislation, working with NPS to create a virtual walking tour. And, funding a 3D massing study of the City Dock area. Through this digital tool, we can import your plan and show, accurately, and completely, what the true project will look like.

We have listened to concerned neighbors from across Annapolis. People feel they are being left out of the process.  Please continue the conversation with the public and the CDAC to produce the best version of the City Dock project while protecting and preserving the historic character and scale of Annapolis, so prized by its citizens and visitors.