Born late? Dunlora Victorian can take you back

ASKING: $444,000

SIZE: 3421 fin. sq. ft., 600 unfin.

YEAR BUILT: 1997

ADDRESS: 1016 Blackburn Bluff

NEIGHBORHOOD: Dunlora

CURB APPEAL: 6 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Mike Webb of Webb & Associates * 295-6895

Quick! It's time for On the Block's rock 'n roll golden oldies quiz. What's the name of the plaintive Poni-Tails' tune that hit #7 on the 1957 Billboard charts? If you remember it was "Born Too Late," you're probably a member of the Senior Center and a hip member at that.

That's the song that kept running through our head while we were touring this house in Dunlora, designed and built in 1997 by Dan Gaulton. Apparently Gaulton is a man born too late for the good old days of Dickens, "We are not amused," and "Rule Britannia," because he's tried to recreate an authentic Victorian residence in a subdivision off Rio Road.

The house is a strange mix of "authentic" and 2002.

Outside, the house has many of the requisite Queen Anne elements: a standing-seam metal roof with irregular roofline, turrets, scalloped shingles, ornamental details (a "starburst" over the entrance, a cupola with weathervane), an asymmetrical fa├žade, and a wrap-around porch.

A little fountain bubbles beside the entrance, and a breezeway connects the house to the two-car garage (added by the owners).

Inside, all the chandeliers and sconces, according to the agent, are custom-made hand-blown replicas of the gas fixtures that would have graced an elegant 19th-century domicile. In the dining room, strangely small for a house with everything else so huge, the doors of a built-in hutch also sport acid-etched glass, presumably another echo of the glory days of Empire.

After all these efforts to take us back a hundred and fifty years, the rest of the house seems weirdly discordant. It's upscale: a raised brick hearth at the (gas) fireplace, a courtyard off the breakfast nook beside the kitchen, a Jacuzzi in the first-floor master bath, and an enormous "game room" in place of the original two-car garage. These are obvious acknowledgements of the reality of life today: people have to bathe, and kids have to play ping-pong somewhere.

Somehow the overall effect is just slightly askew. For example, the single most noticeable feature of the house is the extravagant use of oak. Everything seems to be oak: the floors (two decorated with walnut inlay) in the main downstairs rooms, a huge mantel and fireplace-surround with fluted columns (which also surround all the downstairs doors), the paneled foyer, and a super-size staircase and railing. An especially breathtaking oak extravaganza is a paneled "library ceiling," in the living room, a staggering display of excess.

The 10-foot ceilings in the main-floor rooms contribute to a feeling of openness, but the all-oak-all-the-time impulse counters that sensation, even given that it's light oak. There's just so much of it. One shudders to imagine how many forests crashed down to realize this builder's Victorian fantasy.

Upstairs, the effect is somewhat muted. The wooden floors have been replaced by wall-to-wall carpet, and the woodwork is painted (and one hopes that's not oak under the latex). There are three bedrooms and two baths up here, and another super-size element: the hallway connecting all the bedrooms is at least four feet wide. The bedrooms are large, with closets and built-ins; one even has a bay window, another nod at Victoriana.

Other facts are pretty straightforward: A dual-control gas furnace provides the heat and air conditioning. The house sits on nearly three-quarters of an acre, with a nice view of a woodsy ravine off the master-suite deck. There are glass doorknobs on all interior doors and "period" brass hardware on exterior doors. But in the silliest homage to times gone by, the downstairs bath has a reproduction ceiling-height "water closet," complete with pull-chain and brass pipe, instead of a modern, politically correct 1.6-gallon American Standard water-saver.

Everyone is entitled to a dream. If you're out there pining to live like they did in the days of little match girls and the Sepoy Rebellion, this house is for you!