Socialite renovates Social Hall

Former U.S. Senator George Allen knows when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. The savvy former senator, who has begun campaigning for his old federal job, appears to have made a killing on "Social Hall" on 109 East Jefferson Street.

He bought the downtown building in 1978 for a mere $120,000 and sold it in 2006 for a cool $1.1 million. The buyer was Janice Aron, president of Kinloch Enterprises.

For much of its recent history, what began as a residence served as an office building and day-care center. Aron will make the Federal-style building a residence again.

Earlier this year, Aron began an extensive renovation by removing some later additions and breaking through a stone retaining wall to create a parking area. Other features include extensive landscaping, a lap pool, and a pool house.

The high-flying Aron, along with husband Robert Aron, once owned a six-bedroom house at Wellington's Palm Beach Polo and Country Club that they bought from BET network co-founder Sheila Johnson and reportedly leased to Madonna for a short time for $50,000 a month.

Locally, the Arons are known as Paramount Theater donors and as the former owners of Kinloch, a 540-acre farm (with a conservation easement) and 10,000 square-foot, circa-1740 mansion they sold last October for $14.5 million.

Originally constructed in the 1820s by Colonel John R. Jones, Social Hall had a reputation as a social hang-out. Reportedly, Col. Jones and Thomas Jefferson played fiddle together in the house. It was the birthplace of Brigadier-General John Marshall Jones, who was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness and is buried in Charlottesville's Maplewood Cemetery. And, of course, it's a regular stop on historic walking tours sponsored by the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.

Over the years, the building has seen many additions and a kind of piecemeal construction. For example, after a church purchased the property in 1952, a two-story shed addition was added to make the original L-shape into a square. A fanlight over the entry typifies the Federal period of architecture, as do the false windows on the eastern wall.

"It's a pretty straight-forward renovation," says lead architect Jeff Dreyfus of Bushman Dreyfus Architects. "It's being renovated and returned to its original use as a single-family house, with a one-room guest cottage being added in the rear."

Martin Horn is overseeing the construction, and Pete O’Shea of Site Works Landscape Studio is handling the landscaping. According to the on-site construction manager, the renovation should wrap in August.


Are they getting any tax credits ?

Why does so much of this article seem mean-spirited? How about referring to Mrs. Aron as a patron of the Paramount Theater as opposed "socialite" which tends to have negative connotations? Instead of referring to the "killing" made by George Allen, how about reporting the original purchase price, cost of any renovations performed while owned by Mr. Allen, taxes paid on said property over a 28-year-period, comparable purchases/sales in the area, etc., etc. Just wondering . . .

@Lynn: Cooler-than-thou, hipster snark is the Hook's default tone. And you are correct - it wears pretty thin after awhile.

The title is a bit snarky, but its easy to be snarky when we see the amounts of tax largesse handed to those renovating these homes as the share of income earned by the middle class just reached an all time low. How much do you want to bet that this home will receive a massive tax break against property taxes for renovating it? Can you afford to put in 25% of the tax assessed value into your home this year? These homes cost what they do because of how tax policy has shifted wealth into the hands of the few.

Sure, people in big homes often do pay more in property taxes, but they aren't obligated to live in big homes.

"It's a pretty straight-forward renovation." That is a joke. The new owner, while a lot of exterior work such as adding in a swimming pool and new window openings on the opposite side of the house, completely trashed the interior of the house by removing walls and the original stairway in what I was told "to create a modern house in an old shell". Granted the house needed work, but they went to far.

I think Charlottesville is lucky to have generous individuals in their midst like the Arons. If not for them, you would not benefit from the many special venues Charlottesville now enjoys like the Paramount. They have supported just about every charity in town over the years. Think about the many people that have jobs in a tough economy because of the renovation. And think about the beautiful building that we will now be able to see from the park. If it is labeled a historic building, they could not have torn it down. Would you rather they let it rot? And are so misguided. "These homes cost what they because.........".....real estate appreciates over time and only brings what the market will bear....and as for the taxes paid on those bigger properties.....where do you think it ultimately ends up? In your self-described middle class pocket in the form of education, social security, medicare etc. etc.

I think it is great it is being renovated back to a residence. Even if they use the historical tax breaks this is a better house to use them on than the 1941 Farmington house. They might not be even thinking of the historical tax credits as they come with rules and strings. The City will put a big assessment on it after it is over. If it is worth 3 m. when it over they will be paying close to 30K a year on it to the City.


"In your self-described middle class pocket in the form of education, social security, medicare etc. etc."

It does? Really? Sounds to me like you are the one who is misguided or completely ignorant.

SS and Medicare are payroll taxes, IOW paid for by people who show up for a pay check. Not on cap gains or dividends or interest. Whats more, the amount that is taxed is capped, right at the top end of the middle class. You can bet the people who bought Kinloch Farm don't earn most if any of their income from a pay check, more likely that investor class that gets the much lower tax rate.

So no, the middle class gets what few benefits remain to it from other middle class workers.

And in case you missed it, we just went through a massive real estate bubble. You know, what the market bares, and all that.So, real estate does not necessarily appreciate over time. Just like different houses are in different markets. Lets see, markets up, Main Street down, lots of foreclosures, but PLENTY of money to renovate million dollar homes.

Andrew Carnegie was also a great philanthropist later in life. But he took all out of the hads of his workers whom he surpressed.Spare us, please.

Old Timer----------everyone pays SS and Medicare taxes no matter what or how they make their money. I gather you have not done too much in your long life that would allow you to know that fact. Self employed, retired all pay in...too bad it wasn't in a "lock box"that made the system work instead of being used by the liberal politicians to buy votes.

I hope you win the lottery so you can then give it all back. You are quite a philanthropic person.

I think you need to reevaluate your statement about property taxes Barbara. It has nothing to do with social security or medicare - which the wealthy can collect if they ever earned a pay check - and provides benefits everyone , including the wealthy, utilize. Even renters pay property taxes, through their rent. It pays for things like the fire department, and police, and roads, and sewers. Gee, a fire at a big house like that probably takes more resources to put out than a fire in some little house down in Hogwaller, dontcha think?So maybe the higher taxes on bigger homes is appropriate.

As a well traveled individual, I find the well heeled in this area to actually be quite parsimonious with their funds, compared with many other localities, from what the compensate those who work for them, to their fairly limited sponsorship of the arts and other charities.

The Aarons may be very much of the mindset of Warren Buffet, who recognized the incredible unfairness of the tax code, and feels he has an obligation to contribute to the society that enabled him to amass such wealth. Hey, great if they are. And I am glad that the Paramount is around to offer some alternative to what Capshaw wants to shove down Charlottesville's throat, and if it includes classical so youth can sample different choices that would be better.

But as long as we have a tax code that very clearly favours particular activities, and has the results of the last 30 years, you are going to see snarkiness.

Which was really my point.

Interesting that Mr. Buffet doesn't voluntarily pay more taxes......if you want to pay more then by all means do so...

@Real Story -
"everyone pays SS and Medicare taxes no matter what or how they make their money."
Thats not really true.Those are what are referred to as earned income taxes. You do not pay either of those on dividends, interest, or capital gains. I am self employed, so I am aware of what that burden is. The amount paid on is capped currently at 106,800 dollars annually.

All of which are deviations from the fact that property taxes do not go to pay for SS or Medicare.

Buffet following the tax code does not change the fact that the tax code clearly favours income that tends to benefit those of already great means...