Mount Fair: Views and history intersect

ASKING: $1.9 million

SQUARE FEET: 3400 fin., 1700 unfin.


ADDRESS: Slam Gate Road


CURB APPEAL: 9 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Rob Wilson of Roy Wheeler Realty Co.

951-5106, 242-7142

As development moves ever westward in this fair county, one has to drive further to reach areas with the sweeping vistas and open land which once were so plentiful close to town. Fortunately, past White Hall in western Albemarle, the mountains rising on either side of Route 810 preclude much building aside from a few modern monstrosities perched precipitously on the hillsides.

When Mount Fair was built in 1848– for Colonel William T. Brown, by workmen who learned their trades building the University of Virginia– it must have risen like a beacon on the estate's original 6,000 acres. Today, it sits on a knoll surrounded by giant trees and impressive boxwoods happily reigning over its shrunken but still substantial 78 acres.

Grand in a stately manner rather than in an overbearing ode to size, Mount Fair embodies gracious living à la Monticello. The east-facing front door is reached across a flat expanse of grass and up a wide staircase. From here on, the current owners' commitment to keeping the place architecturally and historically intact is immediately apparent.

A central entrance hall divides the first two rooms appropriately into formal dining and living areas. Some of the more noticeable attributes throughout the house include 11-foot ceilings, six-over-six double-hung sash windows, and heart pine floors, doors, mantels, and banisters.

Light streams through the windows as well as from the open stairwell that rises two flights to a narrow passage in the belvedere. In the roof adornment more commonly referred to as a widow's walk, one can actually push open the top of the house like a miniature jack-in-the-box and peer out. Wagons and horses would have been the only modes of transport visible from this vantage point in the late 1800s. (Now, ladybugs fill the space, a rather prolific offshoot of a 1980s attempt at gypsy moth eradication. Who knew the ladybugs would multiply with such rabbit-like frenzy?)

The second floor has three large bedrooms and one mammoth bathroom stretching along the back of the house to fulfill all of one's toiletry needs. A sitting area has been narrowed to provide closets, but the room is still spacious enough for family tete-a-tetes. A six-paneled double door opens onto a porch deck duplicating the front entrance below.

A back staircase puts one down into the kitchen and an informal (but still grand) living room. Here, the panorama through the wavy glass windows continues to amaze with its verdant, undulating hills of green. Creating a gallery of beautiful landscapes, each window frames a bucolic vista worthy of painting.

Outside, off a small back porch from the kitchen, more improvements and contributing structures have been maintained. A two-story icehouse, which has been converted to rustic guest lodgings, is of heavy-timber construction over what was once a 60-foot deep trove of farm's ice. I think there's a similar one at Monticello.

The detached one-room former kitchen has exposed timbers joined by mortise and tenon and is wired for an office. Both of these buildings are within 50 feet of the big house.

Archeologically speaking, there are several noteworthy sites. Slightly north of the two outbuildings are the remains of what are said to be three slave quarters, but right now it's just a collapsed stone chimney and some timber rubble. A large slave cemetery is located below the house, marked by small, upright, unmarked fieldstones. On a hill above the house is the Brown family cemetery. Although it's slightly overgrown, one can still see the marble stones and read the inscriptions.

All in all, this property has a lot to offer. Adventurous types might take a hint from all the successful vineyards popping up and decide to put Mount Fair on the map in a different kind of way. Can you say Chardonnay?


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