How does a conservation district differ from a historic district – and it is right for your town? The City of Brunswick, Maryland, a town in rural Frederick County, is undertaking an initiative to create protections for their historic communities in the form of a conservation district. This recorded webinar conversation recorded by Preservation Maryland and Smart Growth Maryland on September 22, 2020 walks through what a conservation district is, how it works to protect historic communities, the process Brunswick went through, and the lessons learned.

(Re)watch webinar:


Incorporated in 1890, the city was once a hub for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad which operated a sizeable rail yard and employed many Brunswick residents. Downtown Brunswick is a designated Main Street community and is home to many historic buildings, some of which are well-preserved examples of late 19th and early 20th-century architecture with vibrant adaptive reuses. Yet some many historic structures have fallen vacant in the small rural town of 60,000 residents — and there was no local legislation in place to protect the city’s historic resources from demolition or neglect.

Since fall of 2017,  Smart Growth Maryland has been engaged in Brunswick, Maryland over the past few years, offering support on preservation issues and through serving on the Preservation and Revitalization Committee. The organization has assisted City of Brunswick residents with a campaign to save the J.P. Karns Lumber building on South Maryland Avenue and two houses on Maple Avenue from demolition. Addtionally, Preservation Maryland continues to provide technical preservation support and funding to relocate the historic WB Tower.

Creation of a conservation district in Brunswick gave residents, business owners, property owners, legislators, and other stakeholders the opportunity to participate in a comprehensive effort to protect and enhance the historic city.

City of Brunswick Preservation and Revitalization Committee

Proposed Conservation District Map

Conservation District Draft Guidelines


Nathan BrownAndrew St. John Kelly White

As part of the organization’s virtual conference, Preservation Maryland and Smart Growth Maryland was very pleased to have brought together three major players in Brunswick, Maryland — and been able to offer it up as a case study for other rural towns across Maryland and the United States.

Panelists during the 1-hour conversation include Nathan Brown, a lifelong Brunswick resident who served on the City Council from 2018-2020 and was elected as Mayor in August of 2020; Andrew St. John, member of the Brunswick City Council with a long-time love of old buildings and railroads; Kelly White who is the chair of the Brunswick Preservation and Revitalization Committee.

Nathan Brown is a lifelong Brunswick resident who served on the City Council from 2018-2020 and was elected as Mayor in August of 2020.  He is employed full time with the Federal Government since 2009, currently at the National Institutes of Health.  During his time on City Council, and now as Mayor, Nathan is keenly interested in the preservation and revitalization of downtown Brunswick.

Andrew St. John is a member of the Brunswick City Council with a long-time love of old buildings and railroads.  He has been employed for 30-some years as an IT analyst with a Federal contractor, and before that received a degree from Washington and Lee University.

A native of Loudoun County, Virginia, Kelly White is a research historian, writer, and current chair of the Brunswick Preservation and Revitalization Committee. She graduated from Mary Baldwin College with a Bachelor’s degree in History, and began her career as a visitor services manager and curatorial assistant in local museums.  She later earned her Master’s degree in History from American Military University, with additional graduate level coursework and training in non-profit management and museum studies. As an historian, Kelly has specific research interests in dress history, social history and material culture, specifically of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.  As the Senior Institutional Research Analyst for American Public Education, Inc., she is responsible for federal, state and accreditation compliance reporting, assisting with data governance, and supporting strategic research projects. Outside of work and academia, she is a floral designer, collector of vintage clothing, and enjoys reading, growing flowers, and sewing.