REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Petticoat junction? Esmont bank/P.O.'s a gem
ADDRESS: 7514 Esmont Road
COUNTY ASSESSMENT: $155,100
YEAR BUILT: 1900
SIZE: 3,114 square feet
LAND: 0.63 acre
CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10
LISTED BY: Wes Carr of Bill May Realty Co. 434-978-7355
Unless you happen to live there, driving through Esmont probably does not happen unless by accident. Far enough off the more traveled roads of Albemarle County, Esmont sits like a lost child at the curb. Seemingly invisible to developers who've swarmed the areas north and west of Charlottesville, this little town has retained its old time appeal.
Taking its name from the nearby Esmont estate, the town comprises a half-mile stretch of buildings that sprang up during the late 19th century when the Nelson and Albemarle Railway ran a spur track to the soapstone quarry at Alberene (the largest soapstone quarry in the United States). Quarry workers lived along the line and hopped on board for the three-mile commute. Remnants of several stores remain in various stages of dilapidation except for one, the Esmont National Bank.
Built in 1900, it remained a bank until 1929. Perched right on the edge of Esmont Road, it looks and feels as solid as the day it was built. The four-over-four brick construction shows no obvious signs of damage, destruction, or even decrepitude after its 100-odd years of existence.
Currently housing the Esmont Post Office, the building's front entrance remains a revolving door of neighborly activity. Happily ensconced in the two rooms left of the wide main hall, the United States Postal Service has five years left on its lease. The rooms to the right off the entrance mirror both the size and shape of the post office and have been reconfigured as a two-room apartment. Eleven-foot ceilings, tongue-and-groove pine flooring, working fireplaces with soapstone mantels, hot water radiant heat, solid eight-foot tall mahogany doors, and double hung, counter-balanced windows are all original. A look around for water damage and a few whiffs for mold spores revealed no signs of any hidden problems.
Entering the small kitchen and adjoining bathroom along the back, through two-foot-thick walls and a steel door, it's clear that this used to be the safe. Still used as a safe over on the post office side of the building, one could hunker down in here for Armageddon. Floors of reinforced concrete with steel beams were built to prevent anyone from drilling from below. Safe, indeed!
From the main hallway downstairs, another door leads straight up a staircase into a light-filled, two-bedroom pristine apartment. Incorporating the same four huge rooms as below plus a bathroom, the space is a well-hidden gold mine. Even the kitchen gets one of the large rooms with little change to basic structure. With the same high ceilings, fireplaces in every room, the space seems far grander than just an apartment above a post office. One suggestion from the realtor involved using this space as living quarters and downstairs as a gallery– like a Paris atelier. Maybe that would help put Esmont on the proverbial map.
While converting this structure into a single family home is probably not in the cards, there are many possibilities in such a building for the artistically or maybe atavistically minded owner. There seems little danger that the area will at anytime be overrun with development, but the agents say that the general merchandise building down the street, currently stuffed to the gills with somebody's stuff, is being converted into a recording studio by a new owner.
Sufficiently off the beaten track to be a private haven, and priced to sell at less than $100 a square foot, this bygone gem of Esmont activity is certain to be the perfect space for someone.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF REALTOR