Resident Curatorship and Living Rent Free

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Would you believe me if I said you can live rent free for decades in a historical building of significance? Residential curators partner with state historic agencies in a creative effort to preserve historic resources. Historic resources that represent the narrative of its past. Resident Curatorship opportunities are offered in states around the country including Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts and North Carolina to name a few.

Resident Curatorship 101

Although it may sound like a free ride, it’s not. Those with elbow grease, a passion for historical preservation and a bit of a nest egg only need apply. Although the rent is free, the work is on the residential curator. For example the Maryland Resident Curatorship Program offers curators the right to lifetime tenancy in exchange for restoring, maintaining, and occasionally sharing their home with the public. Presently the Maryland program has 60 curatorships in progress.

Baldwin resident curatorship
Gittings Baldwin House Before
Gittings Baldwin House Before Restoration
Photo-Maryland Department of Natural Resources

The Gittings Baldwin House (pictured) offers a great before and after example. Mr. and Mrs. Bartlett were awarded the curatorship in 1982, according to Peter Morrill, Maryland Curatorship Program Manager. Sadly Mr. Bartlett passed away in 2010 and the property was returned to DNR in 2012. “We are currently working on a new lease to put the property back into use to ensure its continued preservation,” Morrill said.

Gittings Baldwin House After Restoration
Photo-Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Some of the programs offer free rent and others offer long-term leases that deduct the curator’s estimated costs to manage and maintain the property from the established fair market value in rent. In general the properties are deemed as historically significant.

The earliest part of Delaware’s Lum’s Mill House (pictured below) was built in 1730. As you can see, the house is in need of some tender loving care and it is available to the right residential curator.

Lums Mill resident curatorship
Lums Mill House Exterior
Photo-Deleware State Parks

Delaware’s Division of Parks and Recreation owns over 200 historic structures on 25,000 acres of Park land, more than can be restored and maintained within current budgetary constraints. Private residents, institutions and some businesses can apply to their Resident Curatorship Program which offers an extended lease, often for the lifetime of the curator, in exchange for restoration and maintenance. Because these particular historic structures are on park land they are protected from future development in the surrounding area, a bonus if you prefer to be surrounded by nature.

If you are interested in pursuing one of these programs, applicants generally respond to a request for proposal in which they must demonstrate they have the resources, experience and a well thought-out plan for the restoration and upkeep of the particular historic structure they are seeking to inhabit. The following are a list with links to some of the residential curator programs currently in operation.

Resident Curatorship Opportunities and Resources

More Info - via Delaware State Parks Resident Curatorship Program

More Info - via The Maryland Resident Curatorship Program

More Info - via Preservation North Carolina Endangered Properties Program

More Info - via Massachusetts Historic Curatorship Program

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