Piece of history: Meriwether Lewis' house on the block

Always wanted to own a piece of American history? Been kicking yourself since you let Earl Hamner's childhood home in Schuyler slip away? Take heart! Here's a second chance at happiness: Locust Hill near Ivy, the childhood home of another American icon, Meriwether Lewis, is currently on the block.

Of course, the site has changed a bit since the little pioneer scampered over the greensward. According to former UVA architecture professor K. Edward Lay, in 1740 Lewis' grandfather, Robert Lewis, acquired 6,000 acres in the wilderness of what was to become western Albemarle County, and Meriwether's dad, William Lewis, inherited 1,900 or so acres of that original land grant, including Locust Hill, about 15 years later. Today the house is being offered with 2.34 acres for $1.995 million.

Things must be booming at 950 Owensville Road! Now assessed for $720,000, it last traded in 1984 for just $210,000.

The original log house at Locust Hill was built by either Robert or William in the early 1760s as a one-room– mortise and tenon construction, says Lay– dwelling with a stair to a loft space above. That structure burned in about 1837, and soon after, the existing central log house on the stone foundation was built. Additions were made to the main portion of the house in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Meriwether Lewis was born there in 1774, became governor of the Louisiana territory in 1807, and died mysteriously in 1809 in a tavern in Tennessee. (In between, he took a famous trip out west with his friend, William Clark.)

Original dependencies are part of the package: a smokehouse with pegged rafters and charred beams and a two-story frame outbuilding with 2-over-2 windows and 4-panel doors with applied moldings, according to the selling agent.

Decor items include two early Federal style attenuated mantels and some earlier cyma reversa architrave trim. Since those aren't items normally listed in local real estate ads, this is obviously a chance to snag some unique bragging rights. Other interior coups are Greek Revival flattened cyma curve architrave trim. Original six-inch-wide pine floors remain in the log portion; an added thrill: Lay says its cellar joists and flooring exhibit water-powered reciprocating saw marks! 

The 2.3 acres feature a large osage orange tree allegedly brought back from Lewis' western expedition.

Of course– in addition to the cyma reversa architraves– it's the history that's for sale. Lewis' mother, Lucy Meriwether, his father's cousin, was a herbalist well known for her generous and charismatic nature. The Lewis and Meriwether families had a long-standing connection with the Jeffersons, and Thomas Jefferson knew Meriwether Lewis for the latter's entire life.

The family graveyard, which does not convey, is close to the house; Lewis' mother and brother are buried there along with many other relatives, according to Lay.

The agent reports that there are restrictions by deed on commercial enterprises at Locust Hill, so potential buyers imagining another Michie Tavern or even Ash Lawn are encouraged to read the fine print before ponying up the nearly two million asking price, something of a stretch compared to the $126,500 Hamner's Schuyler farmhouse fetched at auction three years ago.