BY RANDY FLETCHER — What do you love about Hyattsville?
If you happen to love all the cool old houses that line our shady streets, then you should know about this organization — and who knows? — maybe even join it.
The Hyattsville Preservation Association (HPA) is a creative and resourceful group of people intent on engaging residents in the preservation and promotion of the historic homes and buildings in our city. We also work to protect and promote Hyattsville’s rich history, heritage and culture. We do this by hosting community events throughout the year. Some are fun, some are serious, and all are interesting. And every event builds community and enriches the experience of being a Hyattsville resident.
One of HPA’s biggest events is our annual historic house tour, which is held in May. Folks get a chance to actually go inside charming Hyattsville houses they’ve been ogling from the outside, see amazing architecture up close, and — in some years — walk through a few magical secret gardens.
HPA hosts events for all ages. This year, we produced a puppet show at Vigilante Coffee Company, entitled “The Hyattsville Fable of the Three Little Pigs.” Behind the lovable puppet trio was a backdrop of handmade cartoon cutouts of Hyattsville’s historic houses and one of our landmarks, the 1918 Armory, aka “The Castle.” The mayor and several councilmembers were there to talk about Hyattsville. The diverse crowd of folks of all ages and the easygoing style of the program demonstrated what makes Hyattsville Hyattsville. All in all, the show was a smash hit, with lots of singing, clapping and coffee drinking.
Not all events sponsored by HPA directly relate to history. The Association also hosts meetings and presentations for its members throughout the year on various relevant topics, such as home design and repair, solar power, “green building,” gardening, historic tax credits and smart city technologies.
A Little HPA Background
In 1980, a small group of Hyattsville homeowners met to pool their experiences in restoring old houses. From this came the Hyattsville Preservation Association, Inc., which was incorporated in 1982. The Association was granted tax-exempt status under IRS code section 501(c)(3) to facilitate “educational and charitable projects pertaining to the discovery and memorialization of the history and architecture of the City of Hyattsville, Maryland.”
HPA had a critical role in the funding and research necessary to put the City of Hyattsville’s historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2004, HPA helped in the expansion of the historic district to include 20th century housing that contributes to the city’s history. HPA was instrumental in the preservation of Baltimore Avenue’s Lustine automobile showroom (circa 1950), which features a rare example of massive, curved glass windows in the art moderne style.
Personal Side Note
In 2015, we decided to put our own house on the tour. Though it needed a ton of work, we thought it would be a great way to share our home with the community. There was a lot we wanted to accomplish before the tour: painting, cleaning, eliminating clutter, sprucing up the gardens, etc. We both had our honey do lists and prayed that we’d finish up the tasks before the day of the tour. Well, we didn’t. And guess what? It didn’t matter. No one pointed out the rotted column or the unfinished paint job. No one noticed the broken chair propped up by two bricks. Instead, we were met with smiling faces and words of gratitude. Don’t get us wrong, a lot of work went into preparing for the tour, but the payoff was huge. We met so many awesome neighbors, and it felt good to know that many of the residents in Hyattsville appreciated the work that we put into our home and yard. Sharing the home we love with our friends and neighbors was a wonderful and rewarding experience.
Watch out for more from HPA in future editions of the Hyattsville Life and Times.
To find out more about HPA (or to share your home on the 2017 Historic Hyattsville House Tour), please visit www.preservehyattsville.org or call 301.699.5440.
Randy Fletcher is the vice president of the Hyattsville Preservation Association.