Couple to convert 1872 house under state curatorship program

February 21, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

At the end of a mud-and-gravel driveway on the edge of the Patapsco Valley State Park, Timothy and Joyce Foresman are restoring their latest dream home.

The Foresmans already have left behind a string of houses they renovated themselves in Southern California, Kentucky, Las Vegas and Key West, Fla. Some they sold, others they still own.

Now, under a curatorship program with the state Department of Natural Resources, they are restoring a state-owned 1872 Victorian farmhouse in Elkridge, expecting to spend more than $76,000 of their own money on the project.

In exchange, the couple will be able to live in the house free of charge for the rest of their lives.

"We've always invested where we're at," Mr. Foresman said. "You do things to enhance your community."

The property involved is the former home of Elkridge resident Anita Berrett, who died last year.

A previous agreement between the state and the late homeowner gave the house to the department, whose TC curatorship program offers Maryland residents a chance to live in and restore 18th- and 19th-century homes on state property.

Under that program, curators may live in the house until they die, at which time the state reclaims the property. Since the program began 13 years ago, 25 homes on state property throughout Maryland have been refurbished.

"It's a very popular program," said Jean Lipphard, who oversees land and property management for DNR. "Doctors, lawyers, professional people, working-class people -- their common bond is historic preservation.

"It's a very important hobby to them."

The Foresmans were one of five families who submitted proposals last year to restore the Berrett House, which overlooks the wooded banks of the Patapsco River. They were awarded a curatorship in October and moved into the house in December.

They were chosen because of their background in historic renovation and their financial commitment to the Berrett House project, Ms. Lipphard said.

"The bottom line is the amount of money a curator can put into the project," Ms. Lipphard said.

The Foresmans are raising the $76,770 needed for repairs by selling homes they renovated in Las Vegas and Kentucky.

State officials also consider the amount of improvement that potential curators plan to undertake.

During the next five years, the couple will put an addition on the house that will contain a modern kitchen and bathroom. They will strip the house of its faded yellow wallpaper and replace it with wallpaper reminiscent of the 1880s.

They also plan to install a new heating system and replace asbestos siding with genuine German lapboard siding.

The Foresmans already have installed a water and a sewer system for the dilapidated house.

"Part of our goal is to refurbish it and get the history of it," Mr. Foresman said. "It's a live-in project."

Mr. Foresman learned about the curatorship program from a colleague at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where he works as a geography professor.

He and Mrs. Foresman, who works under contract with the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Program, decided to apply.

"We were nervous," said Mr. Foresman, who recently had completed $4,500 in repairs on an Elkridge house he and his wife were renting on Montgomery Road.

"We started working the first of July on plans for the old house, researching, planning and planning, researching. It took a lot of time and effort."

The couple nearly didn't apply for the program. The Berrett House was in such bad shape that the two initially were discouraged by the amount of work facing them.

"It was terrible, you couldn't breathe in here," Mrs. Foresman said of the house, now aired out and cozily furnished.

"It had been closed up for a year."

But the house's structural soundness and its rural setting won them over.

"The wildlife is great," Mrs. Foresman said, who noted that the idea of an isolated site near a city was appealing.

The two have enjoyed rebuilding homes ever since they renovated a house they shared as college roommates at San Diego State University.

"It's neat to see things change from something disgusting to something beautiful," Mrs. Foresman said.

The couple have added pools, a redwood deck, landscaping and other amenities to homes in California, Las Vegas and Key West.

Until now, they've never been able to enjoy the fruits of the labor for very long. But the Berrett House is different, they insist.

"Every time we finish something really good, we move," Mrs. Foresman said. "This time, we finish something, we're staying."

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