Princess Anne Historic District survey, ordinance draft set for Oct. 20

PRINCESS ANNE — With a new survey in hand, along with a draft ordinance defining the boundaries, Princess Anne’s Historic District Commission will present its findings to the Town Commissioners at their Oct. 20 work session. It will not, however, include steps on what guidelines owners of significant properties should follow unless the appointed board is directed to do so.

Princess Anne was surveyed for the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1980 to establish a federally-recognized district that at the time identified some 340 properties that were considered contributing to the architecture, character and fabric of their neighborhoods. Over the winter and spring of this year, architectural historian Paul Touart repeated the process and found there were now 276 properties from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries “that define Princess Anne.”

And some of them are worthy of nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

“They’re not all mansions,” said Charlotte Sharf, chair of the HDC. They tell of “boom and bust” years, before and after both World Wars, and the Great Depression. The report includes a photo of each building as viewed from the street, a description and tax map. Over the summer HDC members drove around to see the findings for themselves. It was “an eye opener,” Mrs. Sharf said.

Left undecided is how the historic district will impact owners of structures that are deemed contributing. Participation in the district is currently voluntary, and the HDC sees itself more as a resource so the historic exterior fabric of any house or building is not altered. HDC Vice Chair Warner Sumpter said this education and assistance would be “a common sense approach” which has to integrate with other town functions such as the inspector’s office and permitting. The implementation “is going to take a lot of time,” he said, defining “how we work together.”

Historic districts have the potential to drive economic development and attract people through tourism. HDC member Gale Yerges, president of the Somerset County Historical Trust, said this is the third time a board has tried to establish a municipal historic district, and it is favored by the Maryland Historical Trust which can offer workshops and information. Since the time the survey was authorized in February, however, voters in June elected Lionel Frederick the at-large commissioner, and he campaigned against the historic district.

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