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State gives family keys to rent-free fixer-upper

November 16, 1998

Widmeyer houseBy LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




BIG POOL - A Clear Spring family will soon move into a house where, if they remain, they will pay no taxes or rent for the rest of their lives.

Gil and Michele Dyer recently were chosen to be resident curators of the state-owned Widmyer House near Fort Frederick State Park.

The resident curator program helps the Maryland Department of Natural Resources maintain its properties statewide at no cost to taxpayers.

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In exchange for the rent-free home, the Dyers must restore the two-story house.

Gil Dyer, an electrical inspector, expects to do a lot of the work himself with the help of friends. The couple plan to use rent money from their home in Clear Spring to buy supplies

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The couple and their two children, Dustin, 12, and Derek, 9, expect to move in by next Christmas.

The agreement gives only Gil and Michele Dyer the right to remain in the house for their lifetimes. However, state officials are considering giving the children of resident curators the right to take over the house after their parents die.

For the Dyers, the Widmyer House is much more than rent-free housing.

Michele Dyer has a personal connection with the house and the area.

Her great-great-grandfather, Martin Roof, is buried at the nearby Mount Carmel Church Cemetery. The Widmyer name is included in her family genealogy, but Dyer hasn't determined which of her ancestors lived in the house.

Another of her ancestors was Capt. John Kershner (1740-1822), who helped guard Fort Frederick during the French and Indian War.

The Widmyer House was built in the late 1800s. Brown asbestos shingles cover its original clapboard siding.

The well water and septic system appear to be adequate, but there is no heat and the electrical system needs to be updated.

It won't take much to make the house livable, but it will take an estimated $75,000 to $100,000 to restore its original charm, according to state estimates.

Resident curators are allowed to count their sweat-equity toward meeting the requirements of the curatorship.

Across Maryland, the state has created 40 resident curatorships.

About two dozen families got information about the Widmyer House, but only two applied for the resident curatorship, said Ross Kimmel, who heads the state program as supervisor of cultural resources management.

The agreement with the Dyers is awaiting approval by the state Board of Public Works, he said.

State officials have yet to find a resident curator for the Foultz Plantation House in Beaver Creek.

A dozen couples have come to see the house, but no one has sent in a proposal, he said.

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