Associate Director - Urban Heritage Project
Margaret (Molly) Lester is the Associate Director of the Urban Heritage Project, based in the Weitzman School of Design's Graduate Program for Historic Preservation and PennPraxis. In that role, she is the project manager for cultural landscape research, survey/documentation, and community engagement projects conducted with the National Park Service and other partners. In addition to her role with the Urban Heritage Project, Molly has been leading a research initiative about architect Minerva Parker Nichols for over a decade. As part of that project, she is a guest curator for the upcoming "What Minerva Built" exhibit funded by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, and she was a 2019/2020 Fellow for the James Marston Fitch Foundation. She was also a 2020/2021 grantee of the Sachs Program for Arts Innovation for her ongoing "Building Ghosts" project.
Molly joined PennPraxis in 2017 after three years of working as a freelance architectural historian and preservation planner. Previously, she worked as a program director for Partners for Sacred Places, overseeing a national consulting and grantmaking program for historic congregations. She has also worked as an architectural historian and historic tax credit consultant for Heritage Consulting Group, advising on the rehabilitation of historic properties around the country.
Molly is a contributor to the Hidden City Daily in Philadelphia, a former co-chair of the Young Friends of the Preservation Alliance, and the founder of the InKind Baking Project. She holds a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Architectural History from the University of Virginia.
Work and Research