REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- House in 'Hooville: Bradbury got crafty near the Corner
ADDRESS: 630 Preston Place
CITY ASSESSMENT: $503,300
YEAR BUILT: 1922
SIZE: 2,437 fin. sq. ft., 587 unfin.
LAND: 0.25 acres
CURB APPEAL: 8 out of 10
LISTED BY: Tim Michel, McLean Faulconer Inc., 295-1131, 980-5869 (c)
The neighborhoods around the University of Virginia have some of the oldest– and some of the most interesting– houses in town. This house, while not particularly old (1922), is notable because it was designed by Eugene Bradbury, a local architect whose other buildings around town range from the Boone-White house at 1708 Jefferson Park Avenue to the now-dilapidated director's and several staff houses at Blue Ridge Sanatorium near Monticello, to the Kearny-Campbell house on Lewis Mountain (the house overlooking UVA that has sparked so many interesting urban legends), and St. Paul's Church on the corner.
This house is one of several of Bradbury's in the Venable neighborhood– and some of them share common characteristics. This one is an Arts and Crafts design with a heavy wood interior and cedar-shake exterior. An unusual deck/porch surrounds the front of the house– unusual because it's not a real "porch" in that it's uncovered. While the cedar shake trim indicates it's probably original, and while being just a deck allows uninterrupted views of the very interesting front door with gargoyle light and large orange knocker, its open aspect strikes a curious chord on first viewing.
The heavy oak front door opens to a large, dark living room reminiscent of nothing so much as an Adirondack lodge with large pillars, sconce lights, and a large brick fireplace surrounded by built-in bookcases. While patched cut-outs in the oak floors may indicate that the room had other configurations over time, the four pillars, two of which serve to mark off a dining area, are apparently original/. (Full plans for the house convey.)
Behind the living room is a kitchen that needs to be updated– or at a minimum, painted. It's bright and serviceable, but decorated in an aging yellow (paint)/turquoise (tile) motif more suited to nearby fraternity houses than to a structure of this stature. A few nice elements like glass-front cabinets and a beautiful back door with eight-light transom keep the space from being totally humdrum, as do nice views from over-the-sink windows of the small but manicured ivy-covered yard. There's a nice half bath on this level, as well as a washer/dryer unit tucked into a hall closet between the kitchen and master suite.
The first-level master suite is an interesting touch that may recommend the place to older residents. Given the likelihood of after-dark hoopla and surround-sound courtesy of neighbors in the Rugby Road direction (although not of immediate neighbors, one of which is a– get this– dry fraternity, and one of which is a (presumably tame) sorority), we imagine potential buyers to be flush parents of a Wahoo or two who want an investment and place for the young master to call home while at UVA. Preston Place is a tranquil one-way street of stately single-family houses, but it doesn't seem to be a young-mom-with-stroller's idea of heaven.
So an older active couple who like the proximity to cultural events at UVA (a short stroll down Rugby) and to Corner restaurants (a littler farther away, but walkable), but don't want to be running up and down the stairs every time they have to look for their glasses or their teeth, would find the first-floor suite a plus.
With commodious built-in closets (including closets above closets to the ceiling), original brass hardware, and an adjoining study/office, this is one of the most appealing aspects of the house. The bathroom separating the office and bedroom is almost a work of art, with more of the beautiful dark oak woodwork (even around the plastic shower cabinet!), gauzy wallpaper and more sconces. Octagonal floor tiles add to the elegance. The office/study opens to a private porch and the backyard.
Upstairs, two more bedrooms are cozy under dormers and share a fully tiled bathroom and another half bath. Addition of central air necessitated some rearranging and new-wall building, creating an odd inset space beside the bathroom that's hard to imagine doing anything with. This is one reason why upgrades to old houses have to be carefully done. While we understand (sorta) the impulse to keep cool in the summer (although with the large hardwoods around this house and the high ceilings, it might have been possible to live without it for the sake of architectural fidelity and energy efficiency), it's unfortunate when the upgrades interfere with the flow and usefulness of the space.
There's no attic, but the 3/4 utility basement was dry on a very rainy day when we visited, unusual in Charlottesville.
Overall, the house has a lot to recommend it for an easy-going, tolerant buyer who's willing to trade nearby overflows of youthful exuberance now and then for convenience, space, and history.
Photos courtesy of the agent