Labor of love: Covesville Victorian renovated by neighbor

Address: 5502 Monacan Trail Road
Covesville in southern Albemarle
Year Built:
 2,816 finished sq. ft., 0 unfinished
.58 acres
Curb Appeal:
9 out of 10
Listing Agent:
Eve Hesselroth, Frank Hardy, Inc. - 434-825-1878

There are several attractive features to appreciate in the Queen Anne Victorian situated at near the southwestern tip of the county, but perhaps its most interesting is the history.

Back in the 1870s, a teen bride named Irena Norvell moved into a 2-over-2 farmhouse with her new husband and immediately set to work transforming the house into her dream home. It’s unclear exactly how long it took the young bride to add the distinctive octagonal attached gazebo, stained glass windows, and uniquely shaped rooms at the front of the home. What is clear is that her efforts were so successful that the presence of the McCormick House, as it is now known, helped the town of Covesville attain its designation as a historic community.

Irena Norvell, who became Irena McCormick after her second marriage, not only provided hands-on assistance with the renovations, she also accommodated guests during the decade when she used her home as the Maple Lawn Tourist Home. Following Mrs. McCormick’s death, the house changed hands several times before it went to foreclosure and fell into a state of disrepair. 

The fascinating history might well have ended there if not for a neighbor possessed of both a love of local history and a contractor’s license. Unwilling to watch this local landmark deteriorate further, he purchased the house and restored it, taking care to maintain the elements that distinguish it as a Queen Anne. Some fixes, like repairing the caved-in ceiling and plaster damage in the kitchen, were easier to overcome than others, such as the theft of all the original fixtures– something that occurred while the home was bank-owned and unoccupied.

The gardens have been cleaned out; the floors have been refinished; the kitchen has been renovated; and yet there is still ample opportunity for new owners to add their own personal stamp.

A deep porch stretches across the facade and opens onto a center hall. Hardwood floors run throughout; French doors lead into generous-sized rooms; and light filters in through the matching stained-glass windows. The overall effect is charming and welcoming.

The newly renovated kitchen spans the back of the house and offers a wealth of cabinet and counter space. A window above the double sink allows plenty of light, and an enclosed sun porch offers views of the mature trees and plantings.

Highlighted by two fish ponds, a small footbridge, and a grape arbor, the grounds are immaculate. Several outbuildings, including a garage and the former privy, offer plenty of room for storage.

So what’s the drawback?

Speaking both geographically and physically, it’s the location.

Situated midway between Charlottesville and Lovingston, Covesville doesn’t offer much in the way of commerce, aside from an unusually expansive antique store. Grocery stores and restaurants are a twenty-minute drive up or down Route 29, which wasn’t a four-lane divided highway sitting mere feet from the front yard when this house was built. Today, however, the close proximity to this thoroughfare translates into a significant amount of noise that’s audible throughout the structure. 

The remote setting and the Route 29 traffic will undoubtedly deter some buyers, but for someone who dreams of owning a Queen Anne Victorian or for someone who appreciates local history and has dreams of contributing to its next chapter, the McCormick House may provide a prime opportunity.
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