Handy with repairs? You could live rent free

Handy with repairs? You could live rent free

Smithfield Land Trust is seeking live-in curator for Mowry House

SMITHFIELD - If you're handy with tools and would like to live rent-free for at least the next five years, the Smithfield Land Trust has a deal for you.

The agency is seeking a live-in curator for the Colonial-era Mary Mowry House at 10 Forge Road, which the late educator and philanthropist willed to the town in 2009.

The Land Trust is completing nearly $100,000 in basic repairs to the vacant house, part of which dates from 1750, to make it habitable, and is seeking a caretaker who will live there and personally finance additional long-term repairs.

Potential curators have been invited to view the house, off Farnum Pike, from 4 to 6 p.m. tomorrow, Oct. 4. They are asked to register beforehand with Preserve Rhode Island, a nonprofit agency that is overseeing the repairs, at sprull@preserveri.org .

According to Land Trust Chairwoman Barbara Rich, her agency decided against selling the structure - an action that Mowry's will permits - because it was not in shape to go on the market, and also because of fears that a new owner might demolish it.

"This way it will be preserved - it has historical value," Rich said.

She said either individuals or groups can apply for the curatorship, and that nonprofit organizations will be especially welcome.

But a condition of winning the bid is that someone live in the structure, she said.

The curator will be required to make spelled-out repairs under a specific timeline, Rich said.

One group expected to apply is Revive the Roots, a nonprofit corporation formed by several young farmers who have a lease with the Land Trust to work much of the 22 surrounding acres also left by Mowry.

Revive the Roots has been developing organic agricultural gardens on the property that are not dependent on fossil fuels and transportation of harvests to distant markets.

Rich said it's possible a curator could move into the eight-bedroom house, initially built 263 years ago by John Appleby and occupied for the past five generations by the Mowry family, by Nov. 1.

Mary Mowry, who died in 2008 at age 95, taught at the William Winsor School. A conservationist, she married into one of Smithfield's oldest families and with her husband, the late S. Burton Mowry, made several significant property donations to the town, including the land on Pleasant View Avenue now occupied by the police station.

Preserve Rhode Island, acting in a supervisory role for the Land Trust, advocates for the preservation of historical sites, and owns or manages several of them throughout the state.

Money for the initial repairs, which include work on the house's heating, plumbing electrical and septic system, is coming from some $600,000 in financial assets that Mowry also left the Land Trust.