Feds to rent historic fixer-uppers

January 05, 2000

Barr houseBy ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

SHARPSBURG - Ferrymen in the 19th century paid Ferry Hill Plantation owner John Blackford $5 a month rent to live in a limestone house close to the C&O Canal. Now, for $500 a month, that historic Barr house could be the place you call home.

If you don't mind having Uncle Sam as a landlord.

The Barr house, on the eastern bank of the Potomac River between Sharpsburg and Shepherdstown, W.Va., is one of five properties that the National Park Service is offering for lease.

Each house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is within the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park and will be shown at open house tours in January.


"We're looking for perfect partners for the park. People who love history, love these properties, and want to put some money into fixing them up," said Park Architect Sonny Sanders, who manages the Park Service's historic property leasing program.

Sanders said he will choose prospective tenants who provide the "best fit" for the program.

Those interested will receive packets that describe the properties near Sharpsburg, Williamsport and Clear Spring, and in Little Orleans, Md., and Old Town, Md., in Allegany County.

Applicants should submit "persuasive" written proposals outlining preservation plans and describing why they would be the ideal occupants, said Sanders, who will go through the proposals and conduct interviews.

The process probably will take about five months, he said.

The program provides an excellent opportunity to live in dwellings drenched in canal history, he said.

Predating the canal, the 200-year-old Burnside house is about eight miles southwest of Williamsport. The 3,500-square-foot limestone and wood home was once part of Conococheague Manor, which stretched for thousands of acres in the 1700s.

The property includes a wood-frame garage, storage building, barn and at least 3.5 acres of land. It will be rented for $880 per month.

The limestone Weber house, circa 1804, is between locks 46 and 47 in Clear Spring. The two-story dwelling, which features three fireplaces, will be rented for $825 month.

The primitive Cooper house in Little Orleans, Md., lacks electricity, water and telephone service. It will be available for $115 a month.

The Greek Revival-Italianate style Moore house in Old Town, Md., features such amenities as a three-bay porch and Roman Doric columns. It will be rented for $500 a month.

"The history of these places is incredible," said Sanders, as his eyes swept the grounds surrounding the Barr house.

The 2 1/2 -story, six-room building, circa 1800, sits above the floodplain and offers from its two covered porches a shaded view of the C&O Canal towpath and the James Rumsey Bridge crossing into Shepherdstown. It will be rented for $500 a month.

"Think about what this house has witnessed," Sanders said.

The National Park Service hopes to preserve the historic properties with the help of the public, he said.

Renters will be responsible for indoor and outdoor maintenance, and all money spent on Park Service-approved renovations will be deducted from monthly rents. The park service likely will approve plans to modernize such inside features as kitchens and bathrooms, but won't allow exterior structures to be altered in ways that will detract from the buildings' historical appearances, Sanders said.

Forget about putting a large satellite dish in the back yard or parking a recreational vehicle on the side lawn, he said.

Most building improvements also will have to be approved by the state Historical Preservation Office, he said.

Information can be obtained by calling 301-714-2220, or writing to Branch of Cultural Resources, C&O Canal National Historical Park, P.O. Box 4, Sharpsburg, MD 21782.

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