Public to vote on grant money for historic preservation in Montgomery -- Gazette.Net



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Two Montgomery County historic sites are competing against a group of other landmarks throughout the Washington, D.C., area for a pool of grant money that will be distributed based partly on votes from the public.

The historic sites — the kennel at Aspin Hill Memorial Park and the Darby Store — could win grant funding through the program to renovate early 20th-century buildings and open them to the public.

Organizers of the Partners in Preservation grant program say preservation efforts should not be limited to national icons and large memorials.

“Historic places like the Aspin Hill kennel and the Darby Store — these are the historical places that make up the fabric of our communities,” said Robert Nieweg, field director for the Washington field office at the National Trust for Historical Preservation. He said the goal of the program is to provide money for some “bricks and mortar” restoration projects, as well as to get people interested in the historic sites.

“It gives the historic places an opportunity to generate public support and awareness,” Nieweg said. “The long-term sustainability of any of these places depends on public support.”

The Partners in Preservation initiative, sponsored by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, will award $1 million in funding to sites in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Now through May 10, 24 sites will compete for the funding by promoting their preservation project on social media and through open house visits.

Points will be awarded each time somebody votes for a project or promotes it through certain social media sites. The project with the most points at the end of the program will receive its full funding request. A local advisory committee will decide how to distribute the rest of the money.

Based on programs in other cities, Nieweg said about 10 of the 24 nominated projects likely will receive grants.

One of the nominated projects is a kennel building built in 1921 at Aspin Hill Memorial Park, a pet cemetery owned by the Montgomery County Humane Society in Aspen Hill.

"[We hope] to turn the park into an educational center that will focus on animal welfare, and this is something that will really allow us to shine a spotlight on what humane living can be," said b j Altschul, director of external relations for the Montgomery County Humane Society.

Once renovated, Altschul said, the building would provide space for groups to learn about responsible pet care, safety around animals and how to help the Humane Society's animal shelter. Plans for the old kennel also include some office space and room to house a few animals.

"It'll have more visibility and hopefully be able to reach a broader segment of the population," Altschul said.

Most of the 24 sites are planning open houses for Saturday or Sunday. Details about the kennel's open house are yet to be determined, but its project website is up at AHmemorialpark.org.

In Beallsville, the Darby Store also is vying for grant money. The general store was built in 1910 and is now owned by Montgomery Parks.

The store is currently vacant, although the exterior was restored just a few months ago. Montgomery Parks wants to restore the inside as well and get it ready for new customers.

Julie Mueller, cultural resources planner with Montgomery Parks, said she hopes to see the store restored — complete with modern plumbing and air conditioning — so it can be leased to a tenant and operate as a store again.

"There aren't very many country stores left in Montgomery County, [but] there are a few, so we hope to bring those back to life," she said.

Open house at the Darby Store is from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday with live music, an archaeology exhibit and tours given hourly from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Its project website is VoteDarby.org.

To learn about the sites or to find out how to vote, visit preservedmv.com. Grant recipients will be announced May 13.

ewaibel@gazette.net