REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Transitional Charm
SQUARE FOOTAGE: 1,500 sq. ft.
YEAR BUILT: 1925
ADDRESS: 772 Ridge Street
NEIGHBORHOOD: Just south of downtown
CURB APPEAL: 5 out of a possible 10
LISTED BY: Rob Wilson of Roy Wheeler Realty, 951-5106
If you're driving along Ridge Street from downtown, then you're probably headed to I-64 or the Waffle House. Focused on your destination, you may not notice the architecturally stunning old houses around you. But even if they only register on your peripheral radar, these grand dames of yesteryear embody history and class.
Just before Ridge Street fades into Fifth Street Extended, with its tennis courts and attempts at urban renewal, the old Ridge Street climbs a small hill that stretches for several blocks.
The houses on this short spit of a street are not as fancy as their downtown brethren, but they still exude a charm that shames the monotony of flat brick ranchers. Each house has a unique glow indicative of the time when developers did not rule. As you cruise away from the hub of downtown, the homes gradually decrease in size and grandeur. At the middle point sits "The Holly House," so named by the current owners for a large old hermaphroditic holly tree shading the front yard. For the horticulturally challenged, this tree, which normally needs to cross-pollinate, grows from two trunks— one male and one female— which have fused together and produce some rather prolific offspring. Susan Hager, a landscape designer explains, "It's a beautiful freak."
Fresh stucco and paint make the place sparkle. As an added bonus, the front porch ceiling is covered in a brilliant blue, which makes every day seem sunny. Even though the house is unoccupied, this reporter, like a child, couldn't resist the shiny gold switch affixed to the middle of the front door. When it's turned, a resonant little "brrrrring" peels out, delicately announcing arriving guests.
Indoors, the first detail that catches the eye is the quantity and quality of unpainted wood. The floors and trim are all made from old-growth pine. That this house has stood so long and with undoubtedly a wide variety of tenants makes it surprising that somewhere along the line someone hasn't covered its rooms in neon green or Williamsburg blue. The focus of the downstairs is an unused fireplace; doors connect all rooms, allowing for a pleasant flow.
Upstairs, the house's one bathroom elicits a gasp. It is spacious enough for several people to do their duties without interference. The original five-foot-long claw-foot tub (stamped "Standard" and valued at several thousand dollars) stands in one corner with its taloned feet painted a shimmering silver. It could easily hold a six-footer with both knees and chest submerged. Two spacious bedrooms plus an odd little extra room round out upstairs.
Outside are a driveway, a back porch, and a yard that cries out for an owner with vision. Stretching back 275 feet and described by its owners as "a bacon strip," it fittingly looks like it needs a few pigs to clear out the debris. But the possibility is there for some terracing and some wonderful winter views of Carter's Mountain.
With its easy access to downtown, this old neighborhood boasting rows of front porches along the quiet streets, could someday become a thriving community. Right now, though, it remains a little bedraggled and mostly ignored by the up-and-coming movers and shakers of Charlottesville.
While we were driving around it was impossible to ignore Nina Simone crooning "The Pusher Man" from the bushes. Whether the music originated from a stereo or from this reporter's subconscious will never be known.
The owners, Rob and Ellie Wilson, have done a remarkable job in upgrading a small jewel of this city's past. Let's hope that with a little consideration, the house will remain loved and standing well into the next millennium.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO