Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Historic African American Schoolhouse Available For Curatorship

The historic property known as the Hornbaker House in Washington County, is coming available for restoration under the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Resident-Curatorship Program. This property is located on the grounds of Fort Frederick State Park, 11100 Fort Frederick Road, Big Pool, Maryland. An open house will be held on Saturday, June 7, 2008 from 1 pm-3 pm, for those interested in learning more about the site and the program.“The Resident-Curatorship Program is a great opportunity for citizens to be directly involved in the preservation of Maryland’s historic resources.” said Bruce Alexander, Manager of Curatorships and Cultural Resources for DNR. “The curator who chooses to live in and restore the Hornbaker House will be preserving an important part of our state’s history.”Built in the late 19th century (circa 1899) the Hornbaker House was originally an African-American School. Once known as the Fort Frederick "Colored" school house, the small school was constructed to provide for the education of area African-American children during a time of racial segregation in Washington County. 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 was enlarged and turned into a residence.Under this exciting program, in exchange for a lifetime lease, curators agree to restore and maintain the house according to strict historic preservation standards and at no cost to the state. The program requires that curatorship proposals represent at least $150,000 worth of improvements to the property, which must be completed within seven years. Certain properties may require a significantly greater investment. In addition, the curatorship is subject to regular inspection by state officials, and can be terminated for non-compliance. Resident-Curators, who can be individuals or organizations, must also agree to open the property to the public three to five times each year.

Fort Frederick State Park is the home of Fort Frederick, America’s premier stone colonial fort. It was built by the colony of Maryland in 1756 to protect its western boundaries and as a base to attack French claims to the Ohio River valley. The Fort Frederick State Park was Maryland's first state park, created in the first Maryland state park legislation in 1922.

Currently Fort Frederick is an educational center for the study of the French and Indian War, with significant African-American heritage and listed on Maryland's list of historic African American sites. Historians say that Fort Frederick is the United States' largest stone fort built by the British in the colonies. Fort Frederick has been called "Western Maryland's First Homeland Security," and "The Gibraltar on the Potomac."

In 1857, the fort began to be farmed by Nathan Williams, a freed African American slave, who helped escaping slaves make it across Maryland to freedom. Williams, born a slave in the Shenandoah Valley, had obtained his independence and then was able to buy his wife's freedom. They had seven children, built a house inside the fort and farmed the property. During the Civil War, the family prospered by selling farm goods to both Union and Confederate troops stationed on either side of the nearby Potomac River to keep a watchful eye on the strategic C&O Canal. The Williams family continued to farm nearly 100 acres surrounding Fort Frederick for the next 54 years.
Since 1982, the state's Resident-Curatorship Program has helped to preserve over 40 historic buildings on state parkland. More information, including photographs and bid proposal guidelines, can be found on our website: www.dnr.maryland.gov/land/rcs/ or by contacting Bruce Alexander at 410-260-8457.

Fort Frederick is located off of Rt 70 exit 12 at State Route 56, Big Pool, MD. For more information about other Fort Frederick activities, please call the park at 1-301-842-2155 during the office hours of 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. The state park includes part of the C&O Canal National Historical Park, and is adjacent to the Western Maryland Rail Trail.

Fort Frederick is a member of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. For more information, see: http://www.marylandmemories.com/. Additionally, Fort Frederick is a member of the Washington County Association of Museums and Historic Sites. For more information, see: http://www.marylandmemories.org/museum/.

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