REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Rock on: A house that soapstone built
ADDRESS: 6056 Rockfish River Road
YEAR BUILT: Unknown, believed to be 1920's
SIZE: 1,481 fin. sq. ft.
LAND: 0.79 acres
CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10
LISTED BY: Mary Newton, Keller Williams Realty 296-4495
Earl Hamner Jr. put Schuyler on the map as the birthplace of The Waltons, but the Alberene Soapstone Company put the Hamners in Schuyler. In its heyday, the company built the town around its quarries. Several company houses were built for employees, one of whom was Earl Hamner Sr.
The company houses may not be triumphs of 1920's architectural design, but they've held up over the years. From modest beginnings, this week's house has been upgraded by the stone that's such an integral part of the town's history.
A previous owner used skills he developed working for the New Alberene Soapstone company to install the soapstone kitchen countertops. The Tulikivi oven and accompanying tiles at the back of the house were said to be his reward for years of faithful service. The walkway and patio were paved with soapstone by a nephew keeping the family tradition alive, and an uncut soapstone slab sits in the front yard, a flower-bedecked monument to days gone by.
The quarry behind the house was so central to the occupants that in the past, most people left through the back door on their way to work. There are two other doors on either side of the house, but the front one facing Rockfish River Road leads only to a small room in the basement housing the furnace, water heater, and septic system. So it's tough to figure out where to begin the walkthrough.
The walkway on the left leads to a patio, a covered wooden porch, and the door to the living room. The door on the right faces the driveway, which means it sees the most traffic these days, but it leads to a mud room, with a bathroom on the right and the kitchen on the left. Low ceilings in the bathroom and mud room follow the contours of the roof and open into a larger space for the kitchen.
Ordinary tile flooring runs from the bathroom through to the kitchen, but soapstone counters line three walls and extend into the center of the room to make a table. The counters are a rich charcoal color with pale veins, a decorative touch that complements the stone's practical properties. The kitchen is also the only wallpapered room in the house; other walls have been recently painted.
The lot's rolling contours mean that the first floor offers two different elevations. Traveling from the kitchen or living room into the rest of the house entails walking up two steps.
The carpeted living room, roughly the same size as the kitchen, could be converted into a new dining room level with the kitchen, with an exit to the porch and outdoor patio.
From the current dining room, two hallways lead to the master bedroom. The closest runs under the stairs, with an exit back to the living room. The other hallway provides access to the stairs to the second story. Beyond the dining room is the room with the Tulikivi stove.
Tulikivi, which means “fire stone,” is the Finnish company that owned the stone mill during the latter days of the twentieth century. According to the owner, this stove transfers warmth from the wood-burning fireplace through the heat-retaining soapstone floor tiles into the next two rooms.
The stove dominates its room, with enough space for a loveseat and a television. A back door leads out to a concrete patio, and another door leads to an L-shaped room containing a washer, dryer, and desk and an inset for the half bath. Beyond that space is the carpeted master bedroom. Hardwood floors in the dining room continue up to the second-floor landing and two large matching bedrooms.
Outside, the vinyl siding and the recently painted tin roof appear to be in good repair, but two of the three sheds on the property are crumbling. They can either be torn down or rehabilitated with some work, but the one at the end of the driveway might daunt some prospective buyers.
Schuyler is a quiet town, comfortably removed from Charlottesville, and this house is just as comfortably removed from newer rubber-stamp creations closer to town.
PHOTOS BY PETER M. J. GROSS #