Background:

Live in Historic Houses for Free (one small catch, though)

curator-annapolisIf you’ve ever had a burning desire to live in a great historic house, for nothing down, and with no monthly payment, then one of these programs may be perfect for you. You’d need a hammer, and some other tools, and need to be comfortable with a lot of manual labor ….and be willing to commit to a 7-30 year project, but for the right person, a historic curatorship program may be just the right ticket to living in a historic property (like this 1815 farmhouse in Annapolis, MD at left- part of a historic curatorship program for the last 16 years). 

curator-logcabinIn most states, the state governments own many historic properties, but just don’t have the financial resources to preserve, restore, or even stabilize antique houses that have fallen into disrepair. Many of these properties sit on state land- mostly older farmland that has been converted to recreational property. The houses generally date to the 19th-century and many have been abandoned for years. To solve this dilemma and preserve the history in these houses, several states have turned to resident curator programs, offering free use of the houses and surrounding land in exchange for service in renovating and maintaining the property.

(Click Here for Index of 100+ articles here at Historic House Blog!!)

curator-ma-logoFor the state, it’s a good deal. The only two other real alternatives are selling off the properties, or turning them into musem houses. Selling them is problematic, because they so often are surrounded by state land set aside for recreational purposes, and by selling them, the state loses most of the control over insuring that the history in the property is preserved. The museum house route doesn’t work very well anymore, either. Declining visitation, climbing expenses, and skyrocketing insurance have made it a tough go even for established museums (witness Strawberry Banke selling off one of its properties), let alone for new startup house museums.

curator-md-programResident curators get an opportunity to live in a historic landmark without having to pay rent, a mortgage, or property taxes. And they live in a great neighborhood- they’re usually surrounded by scenic state park land. Curators agree to put in a certain amount of restoration work over the term of their contract. In one state, for instance, curators agree to do $150,000 worth of work over the course of 7 years, then are allowed to stay in the house for free, as long as they maintain and oversee it for up to 30 years. Most curators do the restoration work themselves, and their labor is a significant component of that $150,000. Others hire contractors for the work. For materials, curators can mostly deduct those expenses from their taxes as a charitable contribution (check with your tax professional on that).

Requirements for the curator positions vary, but most states are looking for people (especially couples) with some restoration or contracting experience, and who can demonstrate that they do have at least the minimal financial resources to start on the rehab work. This could be an ideal opportunity for a real estate agent with a historic specialty and some contracting experience, too. Living in a prominent historic property and running an ongoing blog on the restoration efforts there could be an incredible credibility-builder with historic house buyers and sellers.

curator-willowdaleThe first curatorship program was established in Maryland in 1982, and there are now also programs in Massachusetts, Delaware, and North Carolina, with more planned in Vermont and Pennsylvania. There have been many successes, including the 1901 Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, Massachusetts (pictured at right). For a complete guide to becoming a Resident Curator, and to starting a curatorship arrangement in a state that hasn’t established a program, check out Charles Mazurek’s guide at www.FreeHistoricHouses.com.  Here are some of the current opportunities in curator programs:

curator-wachusettWachusett Mountain State Reservation- Princeton, Massachusetts: This is the superintendent’s house at Wachusett Mountain, a popular winter and summer destination and home to 35o year-old Old Growth forests, 17 miles of hiking trails, and many geological features. Not much info on the building itself, but you can get all the contact information, as well as find out about a dozen more curator houses in Massachusetts at the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

curator-ncShelby, North Carolina: El Nido is a very rare example of a Spanish Mission bungalow in North Carolina. Built in 1921, this important architectural treasure is now in need of approximately $150,000 worth of restoration work. For more info and to apply, visit Preservation North Carolina.

curator-wachter-houseMorgan Run Natural Environmental Area- Sykesville, Maryland: The Wachter house dates to the mid 1800s and is built into the steep slope overlooking Morgan Run. The three-story German-built farmhouse retains many of its original features. Click here for the 12-page Propsectus. For 4 other houses currently available in Maryland, check the Maryland Historic Curatorship Program.

11 Comments

  1. by MELANIE M GREENAN ENGL /CASEY GREENAN/JOHN GREENAN JR , NICOLE A ENGLE , JOHN ENGLE, on 07.16.09 @ 11:37 AM

     

    THIS MIGHT BE SOMETHING OUR FAMILY WOULD BE INTERESTED IN DOING ESPECIALLY MY SON, WHOM ARE IN THE FIELD, QUALIFIED TO WORK AND WOULD ENJOY PROJECTS AS SUCH

    WE OWN TWO HOUSES ONE IN DELAWARE AND ONE IN MD FROM ESTATE

    RECESSION MADE IT IMPOSSIBLE TO PAY FOR AND LIMITED INCOME I INHERITED HOUSE IT IS OLD ALSO MAYBE YOU COULD HELP US QUALIFY FOR HISTORIC NOW

    NEEDS FIXING

    POSSIBLE REALLY INTERESTED IN THIS CURRATORSHIP FOR SYKESVILLE HOUSE FOR SONS
    FAMILY

    CAN YOU EMAIL BOTH JDENGLE07@AOL.COM AND C-GREENAN@HOTMAIL.COM

    MESSAGES CAN BE LEFT TEMP AT 3026442090

    CAN YOU MAIL THE PROPSECTUS TO 545 ROUTE 32 SYKESVILLE MD 21784 I CANT SEEM TO GET THE PDF OR DOWNLOAD SEND ATTN TO CASEY GREENAN

    AND CURRATORSHIP APPLICATION

    THANK YOU MELANIE M GREENAN ENGLE

    RE SYKESVILLE HISTORIC HOUSE

  2. by GIELLA DE SAINT ANDREA, on 05.08.12 @ 2:13 PM

     

    AM CURRENTLY LIVING IN MOUNTAIN VIEW SANTA CLARA COUNTY.PRIOR I LIVED IN OLD WESTBURY NY,I RESTORED AND TOOK CARE OF THE MAINTENANCE THE OLD SALT BOX HOUSE ON THE WINTHROP ESTATE ON POST RD. IN OLD WESTBURY FOR CLOSE TO 20 YEARS.I ENJOYED AND THIS EXPERIENCE FOREVER.I AM NOW IN MY “GOLDEN YEARS” (69 YEARS)MY THREE CHILDREN ARE NOW GROWN UP AND HAVE 7 GRANDCHILDREN.I GRADUATED FROM NY STATE UNIVERSITY IN 1976.I HAVE A BACKGROUND IN ART HISTORY AND WORKED AS A ARTIST PROMOTER LOCALLY.THIS WOULD BE A ONE MORE TIME EXCITING MISSION TO FIND A HOUSE NEARBY THAT COULD USE MY TOUCH.NOTHING IS TO SMALL OR TO BIG (BIG IS BETTER),SINCE I HAVE MANY HELPING HANDS.SHOULD THERE BE ANY PROJECT HERE IN THE NORTH CALIFORNIA OR SURROUNDING STATES IT WOULD BE AN HONOR THAT YOU WOULD CONSIDER ME AND MY PASSION FOR A NEW “PROJECT”.

    BEST REGARDS,

    GISELLA DE SAINT ANDREA

  3. by Michael, on 05.08.12 @ 2:36 PM

     

    Giella….Good luck in finding a new project!

  4. by Stephanie, on 05.25.12 @ 5:35 PM

     

    Any idea where to get information on historic homes needing restoration and resident curators in Georgia?

  5. by Michael@HHB, on 05.27.12 @ 12:16 PM

     

    @Stephanie….Sorry, I don’t know anyone in the field down in Georgia. Good luck, though!

  6. by Brian Michael Flickinger, on 06.01.12 @ 9:46 AM

     

    I would like to receive information on available restoration projects in New Hampshire . I have the means to restore interiors & exteriors . I am interested in the 20 year tax free in exchange for restoration of historical landmarks and mansions . ( 603 ) 232 – 6668 I would be interested in doing one of these projects . I grew up in Victorian & period homes , my families business was wholesale Antique dealers . Broken Drum Antiques . I was at the Crawford Notch Hotel auction prior to the demolition . We bought many items including the mirror in the lobby that 6 presidents looked into as they passed it .

  7. by Michael, on 06.01.12 @ 9:52 AM

     

    @Brian_Michael_Flickinger….That is really cool that you own the mirror from the Crawford Notch Hotel! I love that area. Good luck in your search!

  8. by Ralph W. Zachman, on 06.28.12 @ 10:36 PM

     

    What a wonderful idea truly a win win. I’m in Columbus, Ohio and wonder if anyone is doing this here. If so count me in!

  9. by social media background checks of job applicants, on 04.16.13 @ 3:37 PM

     

    Will background checks become a regular element shortly and
    exactly how could it be enforcible.

  10. by Sheree Mason, on 06.14.13 @ 6:03 PM

     

    Looking for a caretaker job . Livein and fix home up. Sheree mason 3407 hwy 259n apt 207 kilgore tx 75662 9035061552

  11. by Sheree Mason, on 07.11.13 @ 10:53 AM

     

    Looking for live in caretaker for home for any state

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