There’s nothing like a housewarming gift to make a house start to feel like a home.
So, the Park Authority delivered a gift to Resident Curator Steven McCullough in May to help give his new house a custom touch. David Buchta and Stephanie Langton (pictured) visited Stempson House to present McCullough with a shadow box that held: a photo of the lease signing; a symbolic key with the Stempson house address, 9501 Furnace Road, engraved on it; and a plaque that reads…
Established: c. 1937
McCullough is the first of what the Park Authority hopes will be many Resident Curators of its historic properties. The underused properties selected for the Resident Curator Program (RCP) have historic value, but the Park Authority has not had the means to preserve or manage them for public access.
The RCP finds people or organizations with the skills to refurbish the properties and allows them to use the properties rent-free while sprucing them up. In return, the resident curators agree to allow limited public access to the historic properties so residents of the community can learn about the history of these buildings.
Since McCullough signed his lease on December 3, 2017, he has been keeping a blog, “Stempson House: A Resident Curator’s Journey,” that charts his work on the house. The Stempson House was originally built as part of the Lorton Reformatory and Occoquan Workhouse. Likely constructed by inmates, it was a home to one of the prison guards and later converted to office space and used as the security office.
In January, five weeks into the restoration, McCullough was still trying to make the house habitable for himself and his family. He wrote in his blog:
“Projects included about 40 hours worth of scraping the walls of ceilings of cracked and peeling paint, plaster and old joint compound and about 32 hours of skim coating and priming followed by a fresh coat of paint on all the walls and ceilings. The upstairs has fresh carpet and all the hardwood floors on the first floor and staircase have been sanded and are ready for stain and refinishing. The kitchen is looking like a kitchen with brand new tile floors, base cabinets are in place and secured and granite countertops were just installed yesterday. I’m just waiting on my appliances and to hang the wall cabinets and the kitchen will be almost complete. The bathtub and surround were reglazed and looks practically brand new.
The plumbing was all repaired and updated in the basement and a new chimney liner was installed in preparation for a new boiler that will be installed as soon as the well is completed and hooked up. The list of needed upgrades and projects is still long, but the last 5 weeks has made a big dent and I am looking forward to moving in and making the Stempson House my home.”
McCullough received his certificate of occupancy at the end of February and moved in soon after. He lives there now with his daughter, dog and cat.
Since his January blog post, McCullough has finished work on the kitchen and is turning his sights on some exterior work this summer. His project list includes repairing and repainting the screened porch and wood deck. He has planted a new flower bed and will work on removing all overgrowth and vegetation from the house and surrounding landscape.
With added curb appeal, this property is definitely moving from Stempson House to McCullough’s Stempson home.
Author Carol Ochs works in the Park Authority’s Public Information Office.