At the Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions (MAHDC), we believe that education is the foundation of a strong historic preservation commission. Through self-study, foundational workshops, and skill sessions, our training program equips commissioners to fulfill their statutory roles in a responsible, knowledgeable, and sensitive manner. We also invite those who work alongside commissioners and who share our goal of preserving our collective heritage to take our courses.
The training program is comprised of two components: a tutorial and training manual, available to download below, and a series of workshops and skill sessions. MAHDC also maintains a library of resources for members. Combined, the program components equip commissioners with the tools to fulfill their statutory roles and others with the information to support defensible preservation decisions in their community.
Tutorial & Training Manual
Upon appointment, all new commissioners are encouraged to complete MAHDC’s self-paced tutorial. More experienced commissioners may use the tutorial as a reference or a refresher on specific topics. The tutorial is organized into eight modules.
The Maryland Historic Preservation Commission Training Manual serves as a companion piece and provides additional information on various topics covered in the tutorial.
- Why are we here?
- Legal Foundations and Fundamentals Designating Historic Properties
- Treatment of Historic Properties
- Nuts and Bolts of Historic Preservation Commissions
- Project Review
- Special Legal Issues
- Special Design Issues
Download Tutorial & Training Manual
Enter your information in the form below to receive the Training Manual.
Workshops and Skill Sessions
MAHDC offers a series of Foundational Workshops and Skill Sessions that build on the content of the self-paced Maryland Historic Preservation Commission Tutorial. All the workshops include an interactive component, such as exercises and case studies, and are led by instructors who have been certified by MAHDC as experts in the subject matter and who meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualification Standards.
We recommend all commissioners complete the Foundational Workshops early in their first terms, and that experienced commissioners complete the Workshops as refreshers at least every two years.
HPC 100. Design Review: 2.5 hours, MAHDC Member Commissions Group Fee: $1,000 (up to 15 participants), Non-Members: $1,250
A commissioner’s primary role is to promote the respectful use of historic buildings and districts within their purview. Expertise in history, architecture, and general planning is essential for the responsible management of historical resources. Through a number of case studies, this workshop enhances commissioners’ technical skills by laying out the procedural steps for design review and by examining the various design standards by which commissioners are to evaluate applications. The workshop covers the following design review-related topics:
- Scope of review
- Role of the public
- Potential actions
- Standards of review
- Sensitive additions
- ‘Green’ principles
HPC 101. Law & Procedures: 2.5 hours, MAHDC Member Commissions Group Fee: $1,000 (up to 15 participants), Non-Members: $1,250
Because the work of the commission is quasi-judicial, it is important that commissioners have a working knowledge of law and procedures. When their decisions are questioned, the focus of the reviewing body will be on whether the commission was fair and followed their procedures in the decision-making process. Through a number of case studies, the workshop covers the following law and procedures-related topics:
- Legal basis of authority
- Ex parte communication
- Conflicts of interest
- Demolition by neglect
- Economic hardship cases
HPC 102. Ethics and Defensive Decision Making for Historic Preservation Commissions: 1.5 hours, MAHDC Member Commissions Group Fee: $500 (up to 15 participants), Non-Members: $625
Following the rule of law alone is not always sufficient to ensure that a commission’s actions are orderly, fair, and impartial, which is why policies and procedures must be underpinned by commissioners’ high ethical standards. Historic preservation commissions, as an arm of the local government, have authority to protect the community’s historic resources. Commissioners are therefore public servants who have the responsibility to act in an ethical and legal manner on the public’s behalf. It’s not always clear what may be appropriate, however, especially when it comes to some common dilemmas all public servants face related to bias, ex parte communication, and conflicts of interest. This workshop discusses approaches and strategies for commissioners to deal with the ethical dilemmas they face as historic preservation commissioners and presents the elements of defensive decision-making, so that commissioners can ethically protect their community’s historic resources.
At the end of the workshop, the participants will be able to:
- Define the various ethical concerns that create legal vulnerabilities for commissioners
- Explain due process and apply the elements of a defensible decision
- Recognize, analyze, and apply ethical standards when facing pressure to be unethical
After completion of the Foundational Workshops, we suggest that commissioners participate in Skill Sessions, which focus on timely topics and issues relevant to historic preservation commissions.
HPC 200. Connecting with your Community: Communication, Education, and Outreach: 2.5 hours, MAHDC Member Commissions Group Fee: $1,000 (up to 15 participants), Non-Members: $1,250
Commissions struggle to get the word out about who they are and what they do. This session provides commissioners with the tools to effectively communicate with the four major groups with which they engage: the public, elected officials, media, and contractors. During the course, commissioners learn how to use various strategies to educate and reach out to their community.
Workshop participants take part in brainstorming exercises and facilitated breakout sessions, and at the end of the Skill Session will be able to:
- Summarize what their community needs to know about who they are and what they do
- Know how to convey their message to the four main groups with which commissions engage
- Employ creative strategies to generate interest and inform their community
- Improve their public image
HPC 201. Sustainability for Historic Preservation Commissions: 1.5 hours, MAHDC Member Commissions Group Fee: $500 (up to 15 participants), Non-Members: $625
Preservation is an inherently sustainable act, especially when viewed within the broader context of social, ecological, and economic sustainability, often referred to as the ‘Triple Bottom Line.’ The avoided impact of renovating/repurposing existing structures instead of demolition and new construction can have a significant positive environmental impact. The history and density of traditional communities contributes to positive environmental and social impact.
A fundamental principle of preservation is to protect our past and preserve our future, so commissioners must incorporate sustainability principles into design review decisions and actively assist historic building owners in finding ways to make their properties more energy efficient.
At the end of the Skill Session, the participants will be able to:
- Describe commissioners’ role in promoting sustainability
- Apply the four Energy-Efficiency Strategy steps to several case studies
- Develop a strategy for incorporating sustainability principles into commission decisions
HPC 202. Modernism for Maryland’s Historic Preservation Commissions: 1.5 hours, MAHDC Member Commissions Group Fee: $500 (up to 15 participants), Non-Members: $625
Mid-century modern places represent a boom time in American building and architecture, and embody the stories of the generations who lived through our modern century—from the World Wars to the computer age. Yet in Maryland, people often fail to appreciate the significance of modern resources.
Commissioners are in a position of influence and can take action to preserve these resources; however, they can’t do so effectively without having a firm understanding of modernism in Maryland: when it started, where it’s found, and what it looks like. Commissioners also need to understand the common objections against preserving mid-century modern and how to respond to them confidently. Only then can they start applying a number of strategies to save these resources.
At the end of the Skill Session, the participants will be able to:
- Summarize the mid-century built environment historic context in Maryland
- Defend the preservation of mid-century resources in their communities
- Actively promote preservation of the period’s resources using a variety of strategies
(Download Context Essay: Modern Movement in Maryland by Isabelle Gourney and Mary Corbin Sies)