Mary Corbin Sies

Mary Corbin Sies is an Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies, University of Maryland, College Park.  She is Co-Director (with Psyche Williams-Forson) of the Material Culture/Visual Culture Working Group, currently housed in the Department.  She is also an affiliate faculty member of the Women’s Studies Department, the African American Studies Department, the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation, the Consortium on Race, Gender, and Ethnicity, and the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education. Her research and teaching interests span material culture studies, planning history, architectural history, urban/suburban history, and cultural and social history of the U.S. in the 19th and 20th centuries.  She is an authority on American suburbs from 1850 to the present, particularly planned, exclusive suburbs and the material and cultural landscapes, values, and everyday lifeways established by their upper-middle class white residents.  She has undertaken a collaborative project with historian Andrew Wiese of San Diego State University to investigate and map the relationships between black and white suburbs in North American metropolitan areas between 1900 and 1950.

Professor Sies is interested in theorizing and studying issues of race, gender, class, space, and the domestic built environment and processes of community-building.  She is actively rethinking the theory and practice of historic preservation to center on the tangible and intangible heritage of marginalized subgroups in the United States and on community-engaged scholarship.  She has begun a collaboration with the Lakeland Community Heritage Project to document and interpret the history of Lakeland, a nationally significant African American suburb located near the University of Maryland campus.  During Fall 2009, her graduate seminar, Social and Ethnic Issues in Preservation, researched “Lakeland East of the Railroad Tracks, 1890-1970,” to discover the history of this no-longer-extant part of Lakeland obliterated during urban renewal in the 1980s. Professor Sies promotes advocacy and social justice in her scholarship and her teaching.  With Angel David Nieves of Hamilton College she is co-editing an anthology of new work theorizing and seeking best practices in preservation and heritage tourism.  She is the recipient with Isabelle Gournay of the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation of three grants from the Maryland Historical Trust to survey the Modern Movement in Maryland (MOMOMA); she and Professor Gournay have prepared several National Register nominations for modern vernacular landscapes and are writing a history of modern architecture in the Free State.  Professor Sies also maintains an active interest in issues of professionalization and graduate study; please visit her Academic Job Resources Page on her website (


  • Ph.D. American Culture (University of Michigan, 1987)
  • A.M. American Culture (University of Michigan, 1977)
  • A.B. European History (Michigan State University, 1974)


  • “Greenbelt, Maryland: Beyond the Iconic Legacy” (with Isabelle Gournay), in Richard Longstreth, ed., Housing Washington: Two Centuries of Tradition and Innovation
  • “The Modern Movement in Maryland: research contexts, issues, and methodologies” (with Isabelle Gournay).  Forthcoming in Proceedings of the VIIIth International DOCOMOMO Conference, Import-Export: Postwar Modernism in an Expanding World, 1945-1975.
  • “Regenerating Scholarship on Race and the Built Environment.” in Proceedings, Reconceptualizing the History of the Built Environment in North America, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University,  November 2005.
  • “North American Urban History: The Everyday Politics and Spatial Logics of Metropolitan Life,”  Urban History Review/Revue d’histoire XXXII (1), (Fall 2003): 27-41.
  • “Letting Our Guard Down: Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality in Planning History,” with Gail Dubrow, Journal of Planning History 1(3), (forthcoming September, 2002): 201-212.
  • “Using a Virtual Museum for Collaborative Teaching, Research, and Service.” With Jo Paoletti and Virginia Jenkins. Electronic Collaboration in the Humanities: Issues and Options. Ed. James A. Inman and Cheryl Reed. (forthcoming from Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.)
  • “North American Suburbs, 1880-1950: Cultural and Social Reconsiderations,” Journal of Urban History 27 (March 2001): 313-346.
  • “Moving Beyond Scholarly Orthodoxies in North American Suburban History,” Journal of Urban History 27 (March 2001): 355-361.
  • The American Suburban Ideal: A Cultural Strategy for Modern Middle-Class Living, 1877-1917. (In final revisions for Temple University Press)
  • Planning the American City Since 1900. Ed. Mary Corbin Sies and Christopher Silver. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001 (Second Printing).
  • Planning the Twentieth-Century American City. Ed Mary Corbin Sies and Christopher Silver. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.
  • “George W. Maher’s Planning and Architecture in Kenilworth, Illinois: An Inquiry into the Ideology of Arts and Crafts Design.” The Substance of Style: Perspectives on the American Arts and Crafts Movement. Ed. Bert Denker. Hanover: University Press of New England, 1996. 415-445.
  • “Toward a Performance Theory of the Suburban Ideal, 1877-1917.” Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture IV. Ed. Thomas Carter and Bernard Herman. Columbia, Mo: University of Missouri Press, 1991. 197-207.
  • “‘God’s Very Kingdom on the Earth’: The Design Program for the American Suburban Home, 1877-1917.” Modern Architecture in America: Visions and Revisions. Ed. Richard Guy Wilson and Sidney K. Robinson. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 1991. 2-31.
  • “The Domestic Mission of the Privileged American Suburban Homemaker, 1877-1917: A Reassessment.” Making the American Home: Middle Class Women and Domestic Material Culture, 1840-1940. Ed. Pat Browne and Marilyn Ferris Motz. Bowling Green, OH: The Popular Press, 1988. 192-209.
  • “The City Transformed: Nature, Technology, and the Suburban Ideal, 1877-1917.” Journal of Urban History 14 (November 1987). 81-111.

Courses Taught:

  • American Suburbia (undergraduate)
  • Material Aspects of American Life (undergraduate)
  • Introduction to History, Theories, and Methods in American Studies (undergraduate)
  • Interpretation of Cultural Landscapes (graduate)
  • Material Culture Studies Theory (graduate)
  • Current Approaches to American Studies (graduate)
  • Interdisciplinary Research Strategies and Bibliographic Instruction (graduate)
  • Social and Ethnic Issues in Historic Preservation (graduate)