REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Success story: Pool, woods make for joy in Ivy


ADDRESS: 1660 Old Ballard Road

NEIGHBORHOOD: Bending Oaks (Ivy)

ASKING: $779,000

ASSESSMENT: $626,000


SIZE: 3,528 fin. sq. ft. / 922 unfin.

LAND: 2.0 acres

CURB APPEAL: 9.5 out of 10

AGENT: Bill Coburn, Real Estate III - North, 973-8333

As a roadside historical marker informs anyone traveling on Ivy Road between Charlottesville and Crozet, Meriwether Lewis— for whom the highly coveted elementary school nearby is named— was born about a half-mile north of Ivy.

While most of us know Lewis as co-commander with William Clark of the famous transcontinental expedition bearing their names, there are two little-known facts about the mission and the man. First, the Lewis and Clark expedition failed in its main objective: to find the Northwest Passage, a continuous water route from east to west. It turns out, such a route does not exist. As history's many scientific and exploratory ventures teach us, though, failure often yields successes previously unimagined.

Other American pioneers weigh in. Thomas Edison: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Bob Dylan: "...there's no success like failure, and... failure's no success at all." (Not surprisingly, the inventor of the recently outmoded incandescent light bulb– and founder of GE– is easier to comprehend than the Minnesota folk singer.) 

While this house is located just a mile or two from Lewis' birthplace, there's no hint of failure anywhere. In fact, as with other areas in this coveted zip code, financial success seems to be a prerequisite for living here. 

Channeling Edison, the sellers have undertaken extensive projects: they bumped out the back of the master suite to deepen a walk-in closet and added a garden tub to the master bath with a view of the backyard pool and woods. Interestingly, the pool contains saltwater instead of chlorine– a kinder, gentler solution for skin as well as the environment. The water– only faintly salty– flows through a special filter and over a stone waterfall, and it requires nothing more than a bag of salt every couple of months. Bring your pet dolphin! 

The two-acre site could be considered a microcosm of the continent Lewis and Clark explored. Starting at the back patio and going away from the house, America's water, forests, and plains are represented by the pool, a leafy copse of hardwoods, and, finally, a cleared area at the rear of the fenced-in back lot– with ample room for an outdoor volleyball court.

Back inside are all the amenities expected of a house in this price range. Hardwood floors, probably cherry, cover the ground level and upstairs floors. Crown molding downstairs, chair rail in the formal dining room, and solid wood paneling in the family room add reminders of America's once ubiquitous forests.

The recently updated kitchen features top-of-the line stainless appliances and a granite countertop long enough to slide a nasty varmint down headfirst if a Western movie-style melee ever happens to break out. Both upstairs bathrooms contain his-and-hers bowl sinks. Little has been overlooked, although the older washer and dryer stick out like a bonneted school marm among the painted ladies at Miss Kitty's saloon.

There's not much to dislike here, which helps explain the owners' ambivalence about selling. Since they might return after their pending job-related relocation, the house is also available to rent for $3,000/month– roughly half the likely mortgage payment– reminding us that renting may be the smarter move in an uncertain real estate market and economy.

The second little-known fact about the man whose name adorns a respected county school? Just three years after his triumphant expedition returned, depression– which understandably would have followed one of history's greatest adventures– took a heavy toll. Savaged by the political world (paradoxically tougher than the uncharted American west), unable to find love, his honor challenged by financial scandal, and racked by malaria and/or syphilis, Meriwether Lewis committed suicide in the Tennessee wilderness.

The great and celebrated Lewis died at 35 of two self-inflicted pistol wounds in a rented cabin without electricity or plumbing. It's ironic that whoever buys this house will have significantly better lodging, not to mention a nifty saltwater pool– and, let's hope, will enjoy better health, both mental and physical.



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