REAL ESTATE- Mountain Light: Secret hideaway-- with some secrets

ADDRESS: 6656 Mountain Light Place


ASKING: $695,000


YEAR BUILT: 1900/ 1981

SIZE: 11,000 square feet

LAND: 10 acres

CURB APPEAL: 5 out of 10

LISTED BY: Frank Hardy, Inc., Realtors


Driving along Route 810 in Western Albemarle one sees the usual outposts of country living: large working farms with small homes and then, occasionally, larger homes surrounded by even larger tracts of land. A smattering of old homesteads sometimes looms up out of the woods (especially in the winter) and reminds anyone who cares to remember such things that this land has been occupied for a long time.

In the late 1800s, when traveling was done by horseback, many families lived in these hills and eked out a living Appalachia style. But schools and salvation were sorely lacking and soon an Episcopal minister was summoned from England. Frederick Neve showed up soon after his graduation from Oxford and set about establishing several Episcopal Mountain Missions. From Yancey Mills to Dyke he trotted, building four missions in all, and the only one left standing in its entirety is the diet-soda sounding Mountain Light.

Arriving at this little enclave of buildings one might feel that the history might be the only reason to stay. The original three stone buildings sit in close proximity to one another and consist of a three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bathroom parsonage, a chapel, and a six-bedroom dormitory. The stone chapel, grotesquely masked by vinyl siding with strange, little seventies-era anterooms on either end begs to be returned to its humble beginnings. The church part, with its vaulted ceilings and natural light, seems to be the only space untouched by decorators of questionable taste.

While the tour of the property had gone smoothly to this point, things soon got a little weird. The owner declined to show the inside of the other two buildings without offering a reason. So peering through windows wherever possible, this reviewer can say only this: the buildings appear to be in relatively good condition. The house, with a lovely screened porch overlooking the mountains has a very much lived-in aura and comes complete with satellite dish.

The six-room dormitory allegedly comes complete with two locker-room style baths on the main floor. The lower level apparently has a restaurant-sized kitchen plus walk-in freezer and two dining areas– though again, the owner denied access. An outdoor stairway leads to an upper level and appears to be a counselor's apartment.

Further up the lane sits a house built in the early '80s by Adventure Bound, a federally funded residential treatment center for delinquent juvenile boys. A wraparound deck and solarium give off a welcoming air. A massive stone fireplace anchors the one huge room which boasts enough space for an indoor pick-up basketball game– something that supposedly occurred during the Adventure Bound tenure. A kitchen and half bath round out this floor but once again, access to the second floor was denied. Hearing it described merely as two large adjoining rooms with no bathroom or hallway, one might think of detention halls or solitary confinement units. Who knows?

Downstairs, along the ground floor, one gets a fine view of storage rooms, laundry facilities and just some general open space. There is a unique dual wood/oil furnace. One end though has been designed as a complete apartment with separate entrance and is currently occupied. Outside, a privately positioned and under-roof hot tub awaits the weary.

From here the land beckons with all its rejuvenative powers. A small pond can be seen through the trees and hopefully provided ample entertainment for those wayward boys once stranded up here. An unused tennis court along a relatively flat piece of the land has probably seen better days. 

Playing fields could be added along with some outdoor courts and a summer camp could be in full swing for kids in need of some country air. The realtor also suggests a retreat center or bed and breakfast as possible uses for this historic spot. Even with a full tour denied, one can certainly imagine numerous possibilities for this far flung retreat.