REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Woodsy wonder: The log house is incidental

ADDRESS: 570 Taylor's Gap Road


ASKING: $525,000

COUNTY ASSESSMENT: $402,400 ($196,200 under "land use" program)

YEAR BUILT: 1696/1978

SIZE: 1,423 finished sq. ft.

LAND: 21.88 acres

CURB APPEAL: 8 out of 10

LISTED BY: Sabrina Thompson of Real Estate 111-West  434-984-7447

The ever-expanding suburbanization of Albemarle County evokes strong opinions. But whether you like the growth or detest it, the change is a fact of life: scrolling through the pages of could give anyone carpel tunnel syndrome with its endless (and, some might quip, mindless) list of new homes. On our last run-through, however, like suddenly finding a pearl after prying open hundreds of oysters, this log cabin caught our eye. 

From the pictures, one might expect a heavy-duty hike into the backwoods of Appalachia a la Deliverance, but in fact it sits only 10 minutes from downtown Charlottesville. The road leading up to it has been well graded and the woods cleared to provide a canopy of dappled shade. And "up" is putting it mildly: even on a dry day, resorting to four wheel drive isn't out of the question.

Affectionately labeled a "retreat" (prompting the question, "Who's attacking?") the original two-over-two square cabin sits high on a knoll; a stone in the foundation is inscribed 1696. (That's listed on insurance forms as the date of construction. 

The owners dismantled the structure at its original site along the West Virginia border and had it rebuilt in its current location in 1977. They gassed the logs and mudded the walls to make it more habitable. Two small additions as well as introduction of electricity and running water contribute to livability.

But things change. Even though it's not being marketed as a year-round residence, the place has everything one needs. The back addition opens up to a bonsai kitchen– a tiny, fully proportioned, perfect replica of a "real" one. There's a washer/dryer hook-up that apparently has never been hooked up. (The previous resident hung his clothes on nails around the room.) There's even a little half-bath. All the original walnut paneling has been saved, along with gorgeous wide-plank, heart-pine flooring. A massive stone fireplace anchors the whole house as a place to knit, cook, dry clothes, cure possum, whatever.

An added second room gives the place a little more breathing room– literally. The ceilings are low and the windows small, but they only add to the integrity and authenticity. The owner gushes about the "wonderful air," and as invisible as that quality is, the benefits are immediately apparent inside and out. We took in great gulps of the stuff as if our lives depended on it. (And no wonder!) 

Upstairs, above the kitchen, is a full bath, and the original log section has been divided into two rooms by a large closet. One wouldn't move here to spend time lolling about in a master suite, so the break-up of space doesn't really matter. Above these two rooms and what one might nowadays consider a "bonus" room (in the addition) is a full-sized attic. Warm and toasty, this space actually felt like a usable room and not just a dumping ground for the fruits of a consumption addiction.

But as appealing as log cabins are, they were never meant to be much more than shelter. Their true majesty comes from the earth they were wrought from. And this land does not disappoint. During the summer months, trees sway in the mountain breeze, and wildflowers incline their willowy heads toward the sun. One can only imagine the sweeping bird's-eye view of the surrounding land available the rest of the year. 

Like Teddy and Edith Roosevelt's Pine Knot off 20 South, this log cabin is meant for the nature lover. Warmth and convenience are here, but the essence of the experience is the surroundings. The 22 acres beg to be explored. Nobody is coming up the driveway who isn't expected, and what the new owners do with their time will (one hopes) never be known. 

Don the boots, grab up a satchel and binoculars, and enjoy. When you're ready to retreat, stoke the fire, hang up your clothes, and sit back; nobody will attack you here.