REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Stories untold: Parson's Green awaits history studies


ADDRESS: 4899 Parsons Green Lane


ASKING: $950,000

ASSESSMENT: $560,200


SIZE: 2,719 fin. sq. ft. / 1,218 unfin. (guest house approximately 600 additional sq. ft.)

LAND: 6.18 acres

CURB APPEAL: 9.5 out of 10

AGENT: Mary Leavell, Keller Williams, 220-2253; Dawn Cromer, Keller Williams Keller Williams 220-2242

If it can be said that most houses have stories to tell, old houses must contain libraries of stories, the majority of which are lost as ownership changes hands over the years. If only the walls of this circa-1760 colonial farm house could talk!

Its past half-century is well accounted for, at least. Upon his 1969 retirement after more than three decades as pastor of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in nearby Greenwood, the Rev. Harvey Lee Marston's appreciative flock sent him on a trip to England. During his tour, the venerable cleric visited a house called Parson's Green, and he liked the name enough to give it to his own residence upon returning home.

A reprint of a recent Crozet Gazette story tells visitors more about Parson's Green and its polymath preacher owner. This property and the stories it holds, told and untold, make the 10-mile drive west along scenic route 250 worth the time.

A tour of the inside only raises questions, though: who hewed the half-rounded timbers upon which the floor rests, and are they original? When did the dairy farm cease operation, and why? It's a shame we can't clone an army of Ken Burnses, deposit them in every state, and dig further into the history of every colonial-era house in the country. 

Upon his death in 1990, the Rev. Marston passed the house to his son, who has lived there and overseen some major projects in recent years. The house was fitted with central air, the tin roof was painted a classic red, and the full unfinished basement was waterproofed.

But the place still needs some updating inside: the current downstairs layout doesn't flow well. For example, an office immediately off the foyer also opens to a bathroom where there ought to be a wet bar or a bookshelf-lined passage– maybe one with a secret doorway to the underground cell of the rightful heir? (Forgive us– historic places can prompt outlandish speculation.)

The kitchen could do with a new floor and appliances as well as some serious feng shui: it's big but too spread out, with counter space on all four sides interrupted by three doorways. With all those doorways, it would be nearly impossible for the family matriarch to keep rowdy poppets from passing through and making her cakes fall. Closing off one of the doors– or installing a wet bar in the space around the corner– might help calm Grandma during holiday gatherings.

Outside the kitchen, this big house offers a few solitary nooks. A cozy south-facing sun porch in back, with skylights and tall windows, provides a spot to sip morning coffee, browse the paper, and watch for deer– or brainstorm a new downstairs floor plan (reflecting a practical and helpful trend in real estate, layout sketches of both floors are available at A screened-in porch on the western side of the house can host evening ruminations.

In the living and dining rooms as well as the first-floor master bedroom, oil paintings and stately furniture complement the house's gravitas. Rustic rocking chairs, spindle beds, and stone hearths in the upstairs bedrooms illustrate the agent's suggestion that Parson's Green could easily become a bed and breakfast. 

Prospective B&B's owners also could reside in the one-bedroom guest house in back. For us, the phrase "guest house" (or "house guest") inexorably flashes Kato Kaelin's unshaven face, but even if a buyer opts to live in the big house, there'll be no need to auction one's Heisman just to put up a moocher here: the space– complete with living room, kitchen, bath, and its own laundry room– currently fetches around $700 a month in rent.

Visible from the road is a massive iconic oak out front. Its welcoming, outstretched branches– one of which even holds a rope-and-plank swing– channel Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. Together, tree and house remind us of nature and humanity's shared capacity for producing great, enduring works— of literature and architecture.



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1 comment

Asking price has dropped to $850,000. Surprisingly, there's still no buyer.