Herndon House: Cottage part of Scottsville rebirth

ASKING: $164,000


SIZE: 1,500 fin. sq. ft., 200 unfin.

ADDRESS: 347 Main Street


CURB APPEAL: 7 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Cameron Crounse of Remax Realty Specialists* 831-5263

On the Block seems to have turned into On the River. From "Mrs. Mosby's house" in Columbia last week, we move up the James this week to Scottsville.

Herndon House, so notable that it's on the National Register of Historic Places, backs right up to the Raymond Thacker Memorial Levee, which since 1996 has kept Scottsville and its buildings safe from the ravages of the James.

The levee can take most of the credit for what locals call Scottsville's "renaissance." No longer worried that every big storm might bring rushing water into their living rooms, downtown Scottsville residents are restoring, renovating, fixing up, and marketing what have become very desirable properties.

Herndon House is no exception. Although the town's courthouse burned during the Civil War, taking with it the property records for early buildings, its location near the warehouse makes it likely that this little house was an office for the canal company. It certainly has the feel of an office, even with a later-addition kitchen tacked on the back.

The building was originally two-over-two, with a central hall and a chimney on each side. Of course, originally there would have been no indoor bathroom, and the kitchen would have been outside as well. Today there's one bath, on the main level, and a tiny little kitchenette in one end of the addition stretching across the entire back of the house.

Andy Johnson, an artist who did the faux wood finishing at Monticello, is also a previous owner of this house, and his beautiful work is an appealing addition to the place's plain charm. Johnson removed sheetrock hiding beautiful exterior dentil woodwork that now graces one wall of the kitchen/dining room addition. His artistry is also apparent in faux finishes on doors and an interesting painted pattern on the dining area floor.

On the main level, in addition to the kitchen, dining area, and bathroom, are the two large original rooms (each with a fireplace) and another smaller room, part of the addition.

Upstairs are two large rooms exactly alike, tucked under the eaves. They have fireplaces, too, and the wide, wide pine floors and doors of the rest of the house. The wood in the house is a marvel unto itself.

Amenities in the house include a new heating and air conditioning system (heat pump), an interesting transom window over the bathroom door, a little storage space under the center stairs, and a tin roof.

Outside is interesting, too. Between the house and the levee is a biggish backyard, providing much-coveted parking. The one-quarter acre plot is actually deeded as two lots, because what is being used for a driveway between this house and the one next door is actually a dedicated "street," permitting development of the lot in back, if anyone were so inclined.

Mature boxwoods flank the front door, and just beyond the back deck looms a gorgeous willow tree, testimony to the river's proximity. Also out back is a length of the walking path atop the levee, and, of course, the railroad. While we were touring, the big engine chugged by, providing an extra element of nostalgia.

The owners and the agent, mindful of the new era of prosperity that Scottsville seems to be entering, imagine that the best use for Herndon House is to return to its beginnings as an office. The multiple parking spaces out back, if nothing else, sway them in that direction. It does seem a shame, however, that modern adaptation, possibly including carving up of the space, may be on tap for an appealing old place that has endured so much.

It's fun to think of a happy couple waking up each morning and setting off for a walk along the river or up town for a hearty breakfast at one of Scottsville's trendy new restaurants. It's also okay to think of clients of a law firm or an insurance agency being able to enjoy doing business in a historic old house instead of some new plastic cubicle in a strip mall.

Any use that keeps the house vital and alive will be fine with us.