If only... Charm compensates for location

Asking: $245,000
Size: 1,737 fin. sq. ft., 1,158 unfin. sq. ft.
Year built: 1948
Address: 1016 Long Street
Neighborhood: Locust Grove
Curb Appeal: 6 of a possible 10
Listed by: Jim Dickerson of Remax Assured Properties 466-4663

Part of the fun of going through old houses is trying to figure out what the builders were thinking or what peculiar life situations demanded the quirky additions or renovations that mystify 21st-century visitors.

New houses are usually pretty straightforward: there's the "great room," the master suite, sometimes a breakfast room or "family" room.

You can generally tell what everything is supposed to be or to be for. But in old houses you sometimes find strange nooks and crannies, weird spaces attached to other spaces, architectural or design peculiarities that rev your imagination into high gear.

This house on Long Street, which is also known as the 250 By-Pass, is one of those houses. In addition to all the standard features of a regular house– bedrooms, living room, dining room, and so on (all of them very nice, by the way)– it has two strange elements that stick in your memory for days.

One is a perfectly normalРeven pretty, by today's bland standards­ door that has been taken from its hinges and neatly cut in half; the top half has been hinged so that it not only swings open and shut like a Dutch door but also closes up like a bi-fold door. This door closes off an "in-law" space right off the entryway why did they want the in-laws behind a half door, hinged? Whatever the reason, the door closes off a separate apartment with its own kitchen, even. Nice touch if you want in-laws camping off your living room, but weird, too.

The other is the best– it's a tiny little space on the second floor, a 3 x 5 room between the upstairs bathroom and one of the two bedrooms, just off the hall across from a linen closet, with its own miniature sink and waist-high shelves all around. What's it for? You could imagine a crib in there, but there's no room for a chair for mom to sit in... certainly no room for a changing table. It's just a strange little thought-provoking room with shelves and a sink.

The rest of the house is not as quirky. Oak hardwood floors throughout, real tile in the two full and one half bath and not just around the tubs, but on all the walls, too things you'd pay extra for as "upgrades" in new construction. The large privacy-affording boxwood hedge out front is the epitome of the "mature plantings" real estate ads are so quick to trumpet. And the screened slate patio off the dining room is a bonus for entertaining or just cool summer-evening family dinners. The icing on the cake– it all really is within walking distance of downtown, Pantops, and the Rivanna Trail.

But remember what your mother always said? If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Well, as always, mom was right. The downside to this sweet little Cape cottage is the 250 By-Pass right outside the front door. Fortunately, the boxwoods and other plantings help mute the noise, and in fact, as the agent pointed out, with all the doors and windows closed (and the house does have central air), the traffic sounds are minimal. But the fact can't be denied that cars, ambulances, fire trucks, and maddening saw-buzz mopeds zip past the entrance with alarming frequency.

The house is on a corner lot, with parking off an alley in the back. There's a huge utility basement which has potential as finished space. The bedrooms upstairs are 15 by 20 feet, with walk-in closets and dormer windows and lots of storage. In the living room there's a fireplace. All good things.

If only the big road ran somewhere else.