Montgomery Planning Board Briefed on County’s first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Project

Montgomery Planning’s Historic Preservation Office staff briefed the Planning Board on preliminary research findings and ongoing work to identify historically and culturally significant sites to the county’s AAPI communities

Wheaton, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department provided an update on the county’s first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Projectto the Montgomery County Planning Board at its May 5 meeting. During the presentation, which was held in AAPI Heritage Month, staff from Montgomery Planning’s Historic Preservation Office highlighted the necessity of the project due to a critical underrepresentation of AAPI heritage in local, state, and federal inventories of historic resources.

AAPI residents comprise 15% of the county’s population, yet Montgomery County’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation currently includes only one site associated with AAPI heritage: the Pao-Chi and Yu Ming Pien home, which is within the recently designated Potomac Overlook Historic District. At the meeting, the Planning Board committed to building a deeper understanding of Montgomery County’s AAPI heritage and issued a proclamation for the first time honoring the county’s Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander residents for their contributions to the strength and diversity of the county.

View the staff report.

“We have so much to learn about Montgomery County’s history with AAPI communities,” said Rebeccah Ballo, Historic Preservation Supervisor. “Our county is unfortunately not unique in that this rich history has not been recorded—this is a disparity that is felt across the nation. We are proud that we are starting to change this with Montgomery Planning’s AAPI Heritage Project. By understanding this past, we hope to plan for a more equitable future for all residents.”

Historic Preservation Office staff have begun archival research and oral history work to outline a history of AAPI residents living in Montgomery County beginning in the early 1900s, long before the county’s AAPI population began to grow significantly in the 1970s. Major emerging themes in the research point to education, small business development, religion, and discrimination as important influences on the lives of the county’s AAPI residents and communities. Preliminary project findings were reported by University of Maryland graduate student and Montgomery Planning intern Karen Yee, whose research on the preservation of historic Chinatowns and international districts has been recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“As both an Asian American and Montgomery County resident, I was elated to contribute to the project because it had a direct connection to both my family history and passion for preservation work,” said Yee, who recently wrote a blog post about her work on the AAPI Heritage Project on Montgomery Planning’s Third Place Blog. “AAPI heritage and culture is not widely documented in the field of preservation or in public history and even less so in the history of Montgomery County. It is our hope that the preservation and documentation of these sites and information can be preserved for current residents and for future generations to take pride in their role in shaping Montgomery County’s diverse history.”

Read: Honoring my heritage: How Montgomery Planning’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Project brought me closer to my family.

These themes will support the development of a historic context study of sites and trends related to AAPI history in Montgomery County that may be used for future historic property designations. In the coming months, a project consultant will continue to refine this preliminary research and conduct further archival research, oral history interviews, and a cultural resources survey of Montgomery County communities.

Planning staff are seeking community participation through an interactive feedback map that has been established to collect input on sites with historical and cultural significance to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Residents should use the map to identify places of personal and community importance, such as homes, restaurants, stores, places of worship, and neighborhoods in Montgomery County.

The project is supported by a non-capital grant awarded by the Maryland Historical Trust. The presentation recording will be available on demand on the Planning Board website.

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