Progress and Preservation
Archaeology & Historic Resource Services’ distinctive approach to cultural resource management
Speed, accuracy and teamwork are not just buzzwords for Maria Audin and her team of architectural and archaeological cultural resource experts—they are core business principles that are changing industry perceptions.
Maria is Founder and President of Archaeology & Historic Resource Services, LLC (AHRS) in Rock Tavern, New York, a company that provides a full spectrum of cultural resource services to municipalities, public agencies, engineering and architecture firms and contractors in the Northeast.
“One of the biggest stereotypes is that cultural resource management (CRM) professionals are there to impede development,” Maria says. “As a CRM professional, I understand that it’s our job to provide a clear and accurate assessment of a site. In addition, it’s our job to create ideas and solutions that minimize the chance of construction schedule delay.”
And she’s doing just that. From solar fields to superfund sites, AHRS is preserving history while developing partnerships that drive opportunities.
The formation and subsequent success of AHRS is largely due to the unique way that Maria draws on her experiences and expertise.
Her highly diverse professional background, which includes work in information technology, education and business administration, as well as a master’s in historic preservation, helped spark her interest in founding AHRS. She says, “I’ve always loved history and have an organizational mindset. My thesis in college was how to franchise a historical resources company—so I decided to go for it.”
Her husband, Michael, is AHRS’ Vice President and Archaeological Principal Investigator. Michael is a Registered Professional Archaeologist. He worked for Langan, an engineering, environmental, surveying and landscape firm, conducting archaeological and historical investigations, archival research, field surveys, excavation, evaluation, report preparation and Historic American Building Surveys (HABSs) in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Since 2011, he’s also worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), responsible for coordinating historic preservation and for reviewing FEMA-funded projects for compliance with federal environmental and historic preservation laws, and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews.
Artifacts and Assessments
According to Maria, every project brings new and unique discoveries and challenges, no matter whether there is historical significance to them or not.
“Our services are triggered by specific local, state or any federal regulation, such as the environmental impact assessment as prescribed by the New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR),” says Maria.
Over the last decade, AHRS has worked with architects, engineers, developers, attorneys and contractors on a range of different site development and redevelopment projects, including parks, multifamily housing, warehouses, distribution facilities and other commercial property redevelopments to support environmental assessment reports.
A job for the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Lower Manhattan, stands out as one of the most interesting early projects because it required close communication with the Archdiocese of New York Building Commission.
The project entailed the rehabilitation of the brick wall surrounding the cathedral and the reuse of native materials from a nearby quarry to repair the aging structure while maintaining its appeal.
More recently, AHRS was hired to conduct a Phase 1A archaeological survey to determine the likelihood of prehistoric or historic cultural resources on a proposed housing development site in upstate New York. For the same project, the company conducted an intensive-level architectural survey to identify and fully document up to seven buildings located on the site to determine if the structures meet the criteria for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Also in New York, AHRS worked with Langan to conduct a Phase 1B and Phase II archaeological survey of a site for a proposed 1 million-square-foot distribution facility. The survey was required as part of the environmental assessment under the SEQR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit review process.
Joseph Minuta, Principal Registered Architect at Minuta Architecture, worked with AHRS to conduct an analysis of an abandoned 19th century federal style home on the distribution facility property. “In our business of historic restoration, our investigations can be tricky with different state and federal agencies involved along with the conditions of the existing building. Working with Maria and Michael was a pleasure,” he adds. “They understand that communication with all parties must occur to ensure the findings about a site is gathered, properly interpreted and share that information to all parties.”
In this case, the New York State Historic Preservation Office required the preservation of the 209-year-old residence, so the team performed an alternative analysis (i.e., options other than demolition) of the house, with an eye on moving it to a different location.
Besides the complications with the home, Maria notes, “This project resulted in the identification of about 80 artifacts from the Late Archaic to the Early Woodland Prehistoric periods (up to 5,000 years old), as well as a few from the late-19th and mid-20th centuries. More importantly, we were able to complete the investigation in a timely manner to keep the permitting process moving forward.”
Responsive and Resourceful
AHRS is also highly skilled at archaeology. One high-profile project was the remediation of a superfund site in New York. AHRS was contracted in 2019 by GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc. (GZA), a geotechnical, environmental, ecological, water and construction management services firm, for on-call archaeological services.
When asked why AHRS was selected, Matthew Page, Associate Principal with GZA, says, “We were familiar with AHRS studies in the surrounding area and their reputable work with the regulatory agencies. When we began our work on the project, the regulatory agencies required us to engage an archaeologist and we wanted a firm that had local knowledge and experience.”
While historical and cultural assessments may seem routine, Matthew notes the uncertain nature of these projects requires some flexibility. “On a project like this, we might need an archaeologist at a moment’s notice. AHRS was very flexible in their schedule and very responsive,” he says.
“That’s our goal,” Maria confirms. “We consider our customers our partners, so we try to be as reactive as possible to their needs. In many cases, we can find ways to save money by providing access to our research resources or shared photos and images.”
The proposed construction of a solar field on abandoned farm fields provided AHRS a chance to work with developer OYA Solar in support of the project’s environmental assessment under the SEQR. The Phase 1 archaeological survey, which was requested by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, required the assessment of archaeological sensitivity.
Maria says, “This often requires shovel tests and if artifacts are recovered, some evaluation. We’re equipped to handle these kinds of studies with speed and accuracy.”
Many projects deal with wetlands permitting, one of AHRS’ specialties. For instance, the company was part of the Princeton Pike Campus roadway project, Phase I & II archaeological survey in Lawrence, New Jersey, which involved the prehistoric/historic site investigation for a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) freshwater wetlands permit.
Education and Community
Since its founding almost a decade ago, AHRS, a designated women-owned small business, has grown to include a core group of diverse individuals, supplemented by temporary staff as needed. The company holds women business entity certifications in New York State, New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania as well as the New Jersey Division of Property Management and Construction (DPMC) and the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (NJSDA) certifications in New Jersey. AHRS is also a member of Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).
As well, Maria has been recognized by the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW) as a member of the VIP Woman of the Year Circle and was featured in the Women of Distinction Magazine. She was also recognized by Continental Who’s Who as a Pinnacle Lifetime Member in the field of historical research and archaeology. Michael received NJ Historic Preservation Award for Innovative Techniques in Archaeology from the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office in 2013.
They both take their responsibilities to share the importance of cultural resource preservation with the community through education very seriously. Michael has spoken about archaeology while Maria has volunteered for public presentations about cultural resources in the community. In addition to Maria’s work at AHRS, she also serves as a part-time instructor at Orange County Community College in New York, where she is an adjunct professor teaching desktop tools. Maria also participates in an outreach program through the Cornwall Public Library located in Cornwall, New York, to teach senior citizens how to use their computers.
Moving forward, Maria says she’d like to expand AHRS’ geographic footprint. These services include regulatory compliance and coordination; historical document research; historical interpretive displays; historical and architectural surveys; National Register nominations, reservation planning, archaeological surveys and mitigation; cemetery identification, documentation and relocation; artifact analysis; and geophysical survey and mapping services.
Maria concludes, “To address our clients’ cultural resource needs, whether it’s above or below ground, we have the skills to help any organization address the necessary requirements triggered by various local, state and federal regulations—and we can do it with an eye on time and cost efficiency.”