DNR seeks curator-resident for Hornbaker House

June 06, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

BIG POOL -- Someone can live rent-free for life in a historic home on the grounds of Fort Frederick State Park.

In exchange for the lifetime lease, that person or organization must agree to restore and maintain the house and offer at least $150,000 in improvements at no cost to the state. The Hornbaker House will be the third property at Fort Frederick State Park in Big Pool participating in the resident-curatorship program through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said Bruce Alexander, who coordinates the program.

"The house has been offered previously ... unsuccessfully," he said. "And this is our second attempt at obtaining a curator for the property."

Several years ago, an organization was interested in occupying the home, but an agreement couldn't be reached.

An open house will be held at the property Saturday for those interested in participating.

The Hornbaker House needs "extensive rehabilitation," Alexander said.


The house was built about 1899, and was originally a school for black students. The small school was built to provide an education for black children during a time of racial segregation in Washington County, according to information from the DNR.

It operated on and off for a few years, then closed permanently in April 1909, when its students were sent to other segregated schools in Clear Spring and Williamsport.

The Washington County school board sold the property in 1914, and it later was enlarged and turned into a home, according to the DNR.

Alexander said the home needs updated electric, plumbing, heating and air conditioning.

"The roof probably would need to be replaced," he said. "Certainly a nice paint job, and the floors need to be refinished. The siding probably needs to be repaired or replaced."

Alexander said additional landscaping might be necessary, along with work to the well and septic.

"It's a lot of work, and it all has to be done under strict guidelines," he said.

A curator would agree to restore and maintain the house according to historic preservation standards. The program requires that curatorship proposals represent at least $150,000 worth of improvements to the property, which must be completed within seven years.

Alexander said there are about 43 properties throughout Maryland that have curators through this program. Two of those are at Fort Frederick State Park: The Shank Farmhouse and The Widmyer House.

Michele Smith has been the curator of The Widmyer House for about eight years. She and her boyfriend live there, and Smith said he has done much of the restoration work.

The couple is in the midst of work on the windows, and last summer they removed all of the lead paint. Smith said they are repainting with the type of paint that was originally used to paint the home in the 1890s. They had to buy the paint from Sweden.

"It's linseed oil with some pigment ... what they originally used," Smith said. "The original color scheme is really neat. In scraping off the old paint, we found the old colors underneath. It's buttermilk, and the trim is brick red."

The curatorship is subject to regular inspection by state officials, and can be terminated for noncompliance, according to a DNR press release. Resident-curators can be individuals or organizations, and must also agree to open the property to the public three to five times each year.

What: Open house for those interested in resident-curatorship program

When: Saturday, 1 to 3 p.m.

Where: The Hornbaker House on the grounds of Fort Frederick State Park, 11100 Fort Frederick Road. The house is about 25 feet past the entrance to the park.

Details: For more information, call Bruce Alexander with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources at 410-260-8457 or go to

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