ONARCHITECTURE- Handymillionaire special: 'The Lodge' goes on the block

Famed local architect Eugene Bradbury designed the Charlottesville Country Club on Rugby Road in the late 1900s. In 1950, the Chi Psi Fraternity bought the building, which has been known since then as "The Lodge."

Looking for a multi-million dollar fixer-upper? Your search may soon end. Recently, board members of the Chi Psi Fraternity house on Rugby Road, known as "The Lodge," voted to put the 100-plus-year-old property up for sale for "north of $2 million," says board member Paul Wright. The fraternity bought the house in 1950.

"The Lodge is at a crossroads," wrote fraternity president Rob Robertson in a fraternity newsletter last August. "Its very survival is at stake."

The far-from-frat row fraternity had just five pledges earlier that spring, and Robertson wrote that over $200,000 in repairs and upgrades (the Lodge is currently assessed at $903,700) were needed to remain competitive with other housing options for UVA undergrads.

"Structurally, it's in good shape," says Wright, "but it needs some work."

Although the fraternity's board considered other options for the Lodge, Wright says, they eventually voted to sell the property despite concerns that a new location might "disassociate us from our rich history and unique location."

Proceeds from a sale, says Wright, will help Chi Psi find a place closer to the other fraternities closer to Grounds.

If the 10,000-square-foot house could talk, it would have plenty of stories to tell. It was originally built around the turn of the century as a private residence (the pool was constructed in 1908, as inscribed in the concrete), and the building was later expanded and redesigned by famed local architect Eugene Bradbury in 1914 as the Charlottesville Country Club.

According to a 1915 article in the Daily Progress, the Country Club quickly became the center of Charlottesville fashion and society, hosting lavish dances with a guest list that included Mr. & Mrs. Edwin Alderman and nearly every other distinguished member of the legal, business, and academic communities.

The Club, however, was short-lived, and the property was sold to R.J.R. Bing, better known as Bobby Mainfort, who operated the place as the White Pine Health Resort which, besides the swimming pool, offered guests several cottages on the property for short stays.

Much later, according to Wright, the Lodge played host to other notables including Prince Albert, Ted Kennedy (whose local drunk driving record has become so legendary that Wright says there's a rumor that Kennedy's vehicle had a run-in with the pillars out front). More recently, Dave Matthews Band performed there in 1992. And, of course, the Lodge played host to over 50 years of frat guy shenanigans.

The Lodge's potential sale causes some people concern-– perhaps for good reason.

"I sure hope this is not going to be another preservation battle," says UVA architectural historian Daniel Bluestone, referring to a Bradbury designed building, Beta House, that was unceremoniously demolished in December by the Jefferson Scholars Foundation to make way for a gleaming new headquarters.

"A developer could likely get substantial tax credits for rehabilitation, and the building is well worth preserving," says Bluestone.

Wright says the lesson of Beta House demolition wasn't lost on his fellow Chi Psi board members, who don't want a similar fate to befall their beloved Lodge.

"We would prefer it not be sold to a developer," says Wright, "and would rather it be sold as a private residence."

At 10,000 square feet, that'll be one heck of a home on Rugby, brother.

As the Charlottesville Country Club, shown here in 1914, the elegant 10,000-square-foot Chi Psi Lodge played host to high-society parties and dances.