REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- History lesson: From the past, built to last


ADDRESS: 40 Elwood Drive

NEIGHBORHOOD: Stanardsville 

ASKING: $549,900

ASSESSMENT: $265,200


SIZE: 3,114 fin. sq. ft./ 495 unfin.

LAND: 12.9 acres

CURB APPEAL: 8.5 out of 10

AGENT:  Julie Kuhl ReMax Realty Specialists 882-0227

Any house hunter with "spec home fatigue" can appreciate this week's offering in the Stanardsville countryside. There's nothing cookie-cutter about this house, because mass production didn't exist when it was built. Features like hand-hewn ceiling beams, doorframes from when any human being over six-two was a freak, and eight-inch-wide pine floors lend character to this more than 200-year-old house.

The McMullen family, whose name adorns modern maps of the area, operated a grist mill nearby and built the original house– probably the middle third of today's structure– in 1790. In that year, George Washington was wrapping up his first year as president, and our nation's first secretary of state– an amateur architect who wouldn't complete his own (local) house until after finishing his presidency in 1809– was a mere 47 years old. 

While the place on the nickel gets far more tourists, the McMullen-Melone house does attract its share of pilgrims. Shortly after moving in 13 years ago, the current owners were quite surprised one Sunday morning to find a hundred McMullen and Melone descendants gathered in their yard: every five years, the families return to their ancestral hometown for a reunion. Among their stops are this house, the mill site, and the nearby South River Methodist Church. The sellers promise a heads-up for the next reunion, as well as copies of family history booklets provided to them by the heirs.

Thus it goes without saying that history– and a reverence for history– abounds in and around the house. One of the original millstones rests next to the deck. Six feet in diameter and hundreds of pounds, it serves as a reminder of a time when rivers were superhighways, and flour wasn't found one shelf above the sugar in aisle six. Another millstone was broken up and used in one of five stone fireplaces inside.

Stone provides the bulk of this house's support: there's a basement under the front of the house, but the rest is built into solid rock. The McMullen-Melone house has gotten along just fine without newfangled inventions like concrete and steel, thank you very much. A stone-walled cellar room, the agent points out, would be ideal for wine storage. 

Like history, the house has some negatives. The driveway would be tough for a car in winter, and the distance from the area's centers of employment– while a plus for anyone seeking privacy– would be equally hard on a commuter.

White canvas electric fencing marking off a horse paddock mars the front view and what was once probably the original driveway, but the sellers are willing to remove it, as they will be taking the family's three horses with them to a larger homestead. Because the current owners are staying in Greene County, a new owner can expect to see them in the front yard come reunion time– they're now part of the history.

While the house's 200-plus years indicate it's built to last, the kitchen and laundry appliances don't inspire such confidence: all save the refrigerator appear dated.

That said, a brand-new matching washer and dryer mark the sole advantage we can award to today's predictable, marketing- and cost-driven houses, most of which lack the character found in any of this home's four bedrooms. 

The first-floor master suite, for example, shares one side of a chimney with the family room and opens to a wraparound deck overlooking the side lawn, where the sellers' daughter was married.

How many of our houses would be able to host our child's wedding? While we may have the space for a rented tent, would we be far enough from our neighbors to ensure our feckless Uncle Billy, the boor Mom guilt-tripped us into inviting because "he's my only brother," didn't pass out in someone's driveway?

With the millstone and a couple of centuries-old sycamore trees bearing witness to the nuptials on the lawn, bride and groom certainly invited history to their wedding. 



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