Resident Curatorship Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the Department of Natural Resources have this program?

As the largest landowner in Maryland (with over 500,000 acres held in the public trust), the Department of Natural Resources finds itself the steward of a great number of historically significant sites and structures. In order to maximize the number of these historic properties that are preserved and shared with the public, the department seeks public-private partnerships for the funding, maintenance, and interpretation of select structures. Without such partnerships, these structure would otherwise be left under-used and in poor condition.

Who benefits from Resident-Curatorships?

Curators, the department, and the public all benefit from these partnerships. As long as Curators meet the obligations of their Curatorship Agreement, they are able to reside in a historic house for their lifetimes. These homes are located on State parkland or natural resource areas, and are protected from future development. Our curators find that the benefits of spending a lifetime living in a historic house in a State park or other natural resource property far out weigh the costs associated with restoration and maintenance.

The public benefits from the program as well. The historic structures are restored and maintained at no cost to the State, and elements of Maryland’s historical and architectural heritage are preserved for the benefit of residents and visitors alike, enriching our historic and cultural landscape. Nearly 50 historic properties have either been fully restored or are under restoration in this successful program.

How often are Resident-Curatorship offerings made?

The frequency of offerings is unpredictable but there are generally a couple properties available at any given time. If you are interested in becoming a curator but don’t see a property listed, please contact the Program Manager.

Can a Curatorship property be used for non-profit purposes?

Yes. In fact, the department will give preference to Non-Profit Organizations that have missions in keeping with the Land Unit (State Park, Forest, Wildlife Management Area, etc) where the property is located.

What does the department look for in a curator?

The department seeks to find people who are committed to historic preservation, who want to live in a historic house on State natural resource land, and have the skills, knowledge, interest, and financial means to restore a piece of Maryland’s history. Curators must also understand that they are accepting a role that represents the Department of Natural Resources and the Land Unit and, as such, are expected to maintain a level of professionalism and courtesy.

How do you apply?

Interested parties must submit a cover letter and detailed proposal to the Manager of Curatorships and Cultural Resources. Specific information on the proposal can be found under the “Preparing Proposals” section. Those interested are encouraged to call the Manager of Curatorships to discuss the proposal process.

How long does the application process take?

The initial review of proposals by a committee can take three months. After a winning proposal is selected, the process from proposal to final approval by the Maryland Board of Public Works generally takes about six months.

Can I move right in?

Once the proposal and lease have been approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works, Curators may take up residence once the property has passed lead paint testing, which may require the complete repainting of the interior and exterior of the house at the expense of the curator. The deaprtment may require inspections, such as electrical, plumbing, and septic before tenancy is permitted.

How long do I have to complete the restoration? How much does it cost?

The cost varies according to the size and restoration needs of the house. However, the department expects a curator to generally spend between $150,000 - $300,000 over a five to seven-year restoration period. Some of the cost can be in the form of your own “sweat equity”. On-going maintenance expenses after the restoration would be a separate expense. Some properties will require a significantly greater investment.

Do I have to pay rent or property taxes? Who pays for the utilities?

Curators are responsible for all utilities and fees, but do not pay rent to the Department of Natural Resources. Property taxes are determined by the county and, if assessed, are the responsibility of curators.

The old wood siding and wood windows are too expensive to paint. Can I replace them with vinyl or install new windows?

No. Curators must adhere to historic preservation standards. Whenever possible, the original materials must be restored. Installing vinyl siding or replacing the windows is generally not permitted.

What if I want to replace the porch or build a garage?

Curators must receive permission prior to any making any material changes to the building or land. Proposals are reviewed for a variety of factors, including its aesthetic qualities and its impact on the historic resource. An environmental assessment and a determination of its impact on the park and the natural resources are also considered.

What other things should I plan for when doing the restoration?

Curators are expected to ensure that the house is restored to good condition and meets current building codes and standards.  This generally entails improving or replacing electrical, plumbing and heating systems, and installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  Some properties may have hazardous materials such as lead paint which must be addressed in accordance with Maryland law. Curators are also responsible for municipal sewer/water connections or installation of well and septic systems as necessary.

A storm hits and several trees are down and blocking my driveway. Will the State remove them?

No. Curators are responsible for maintenance of the house, outbuildings, and the land on the curatorship. If trees need trimming, or driveway snow removal is required, curators are financially responsible.

The roof is leaking. Who pays for its replacement?

Curators pay for all restoration and ongoing maintenance costs for the house, grounds, and any outbuildings that are included as part of the final Curatorship Agreement.

Can I get a home improvement loan to help restore the house?

Since curators don’t own the house, they may not qualify for such loans. Similarly, Curators do not qualify for historic preservation tax credits or grants. Non-Profit organizations, however, can sometimes qualify for other funds, including grants and loans.

I’ve been transferred out of state. Can I sublet the house?

Subletting is generally not permitted under the lease agreement.

I spent a lot of money installing a new kitchen. Who owns the sink?

All permanent fixtures and improvements; the kitchen sink, dishwasher, stove, furnace, etc. become the property of the State of Maryland once they are installed in the curatorship premises.

I want to clear part of the woods. Do I need permission?

Yes. Any excavation, land clearing, or removal of trees, shrubs, grass, etc. needs prior approval by the department. Likewise, if you want to plant trees or shrubs, approval is required.

Do I have to open the house to the public? Can people just walk right in at any time?

We do require that all curatorship houses be open 3-5 times a year to the general public in consultation with the department. Since curatorship houses are on State natural resource land, occasionally people will incorrectly assume the house is open all the time. Curators are stewards of taxpayer resources and should be prepared for the inevitable hiker who walks around the house, not knowing that the area isn’t generally open for public use. In lieu of public access 3-5 times a year, Curators may pursue additional ways of sharing their Curatorship experience with the public, such as maintaining a blog or providing other digital materials for a virtual tour hosted on the program website.

The curatorship is granted for life. Can I transfer it to my children?

No. The Curatorship ceases at the death or resignation of the curators. It cannot be transferred.

When I retire, can I sell the rights to live in the house to help pay for my retirement?

No. Curators have no financial interest in the property. They are advised to take this into consideration when planning for retirement.

While every effort is made to keep this fact sheet up-to-date, it is meant to be advisory only. Rules and regulations are subject to change.