REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Wedded bliss? G'ville's union of old and new

ADDRESS: 405 East King Street

NEIGHBORHOOD: Gordonsville

ASKING: $269,000

2006 COUNTY ASSESSMENT: $231,000


SIZE: 1,948 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: 0.25 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10

LISTED BY: Trey Durham, Century 21 Manley Associates, 977-7300

The agent describes this property as "a wonderful marriage of old and new." But as we know, while it may be true that opposites attract, some marriages are doomed to end unhappily. Thus the fate of this particular "wonderful marriage" remains to be seen.

On one hand, the house mirrors its surroundings, as Gordonsville itself has become a marriage of old and new. The formerly typical little railroad town may be best known for a traffic circle that grabs motorists heading to Orange, Fredericksburg, and other points north. But recently, it has accepted the offers of several suitors:

• Ryan Homes has a 40-unit project, "Gordonsville Gates," nearing completion just outside town on Rt. 231;

• "Coniston Manor" is under way with a projected 74 home sites, and

• A proposal that dwarfs them all, "Annadale Farms," an "active adult retirement community" of 290 single-family and attached units (lowered after protests from 488) one mile from the traffic circle and still on track despite opposition from groups such as the Piedmont Environmental Council.

Perhaps with an eye to the glossy upscale competition in those new developments, the owner of this old farmhouse– situated on a dilapidated street across from the fairgrounds of the Gordonsville Fireman's carnival– has tried to incorporate some glitz in his make-over. To the original two-over-two core he's attached a two-story rear addition that contains a big "country kitchen," full bath, and laundry room on the main level and large master suite with vaulted ceiling and spacious bath on the second.

Less felicitous changes– although they're no doubt good for the pocketbook– include replacing original windows with double-hung vinyl models, enclosing brick flues in every room with rough stucco (perhaps the most jarring element in the whole house), and carpeting all rooms except the big bathroom on the second level with plush grey wall-to-wall. Since the upstairs landing (and maybe the floors under the wall-to-wall) are heart pine, the pretty oak floors downstairs may not be original, but they seem to fit more naturally with the homey farmhouse vibe than the carpet.

While questionable decor elements like red-painted plastic chair rail and crown molding in the entry hall, and rooster and fruit wallpaper borders in the living room and kitchen, are easy to undo, they nevertheless have the potential to alienate buyers who would otherwise be able to appreciate the graceful staircase, the easy flow of the space, and the generous proportions of the big kitchen addition, where oak cabinets nicely echo the pretty floors.

Ditto a chandelier in the upstairs hall that, while pretty, is way too big for the space, and a ceiling fan (what is their appeal?) in the new bedroom. An element that does add class to the whole enterprise is a set of French doors between the new bedroom and the spacious bath (with "garden" tub!).

In addition to the large kitchen, the first level consists of two living rooms– one configured now as a den/family room– and the new full bath and laundry room. Upstairs, in the original part of the house are two identical bedrooms in addition to the new master suite. One problem on this level, however, is that the only bathroom is accessed through the master bedroom, making it awkward (to say the least) to entertain guests– or even accommodate children. (The current owner's kids run downstairs to bathe and brush teeth, according to the agent.)

The lot is small, although probably typical of Gordonsville town lots. The backyard stretches a good way toward  what looks like a little stream and could be a nice play area for kiddies– or perhaps a vegetable garden. Four pillars supporting the roof over the concrete front porch have been painted with red inserts matching the entryway chair-rail, and the whole re-done-in-vinyl-siding exterior has also been painted red.

All systems are new: electrical, plumbing, roof, and heat (a dual heat pump system including AC). 

Potential buyers who want a glimpse of this marriage are invited to the reception– in the form of an open house on Sunday, February 11. While a renovated 1900s farmhouse is obviously not in the same league as the new "Ravenwood," "Belvedere," or "Victoria" models over at Gordonsville Gates, house hunters who prize an authentic– as opposed to consciously constructed– community, and the interesting fabric of a long-established neighborhood within walking distance of town amenities could do worse than give this place a look. 

Photos by Rosalind Warfield-Brown