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4/13/2010
Councilman Weiner proposed Resident Curatorship program to save our historic homes in 2002. New Castle County finally implements program to make this dream come true - News Journal


Curators can live in a fine old house, but it's not exactly free
ROBIN BROWN • APRIL 13, 2010

A handful of historic houses, owned by New Castle County, stand vacant, long boarded up and deteriorating day by day.

But folks with the patience -- and bucks -- to restore them could live in them for the rest of their lives, rent-free.

To jump-start its stalled Resident Curatorship Program, the county plans an open house Saturday at two such sites.

The Bechtel House or "Ivyside" in Bechtel Park, 1301 Naamans Road, will be open 9 a.m. to noon and the Talley House at 1300 Foulk Road in Talley Day Park will be open 1 to 4 p.m.

The Talley House was built in 1847, says program manager Robert Merrill, and Ivyside dates from 1804. Before the open house, he asks guests to visit www.nccde.org/curatorship for details.
He will take questions 395-5845 or rmerrill@nccde.org.

The Web site has more history on tour houses and info on others available -- Woodstock, 102 Middleboro Road in Banning Park; J. Gregg House, 3200 Millcreek Road on Delcastle Golf Course , and Jester Farm, 2818 Grubb Road in Jester Park.

More sites may be added to the program later, Merrill said.

A similar state program had success with a home on Del. 71 at Lums Pond State Park, but the county hasn't scored a save.

County Councilman Robert Weiner, who championed the idea for years before the program's 2004 creation, said the Talley House is his top concern. "If we can't get somebody to love that house, we're going to have to raze it for the safety of the community," he said. He hopes the program can spare all the sites, he said, "to save the living history of our forefathers."

The big drawback? Moolah.

Curators can't use the houses for mortgages or loans, but are expected to spend $150,000 on a five-year restoration. Costs easily may top that, Merrill warns.

Applications must give detailed work plans and financial disclosures. Historic preservation guidelines apply, so shortcuts and quick fixes, like cheap replacement windows, won't do.
Curators may get county tax waivers, but must pay costs including renovation, maintenance, utilities and storm damage repairs.

Nonprofits and businesses may apply and negotiate terms.

Curatorships may not be sold, transferred, sublet or bequeathed. If curators move, they leave behind all fix-ups and fixtures down to the kitchen sink .

And the county reserves the right of periodic inspections.

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