Romper room: Schoolhouse adds to the charm

ADDRESS: 56 Pine Hill Lane

ASKING: $279,000 (house and four acres)

$399,000 (above plus additional three acres and schoolhouse)

SIZE: 3800 fin. sq. ft., 200 unfin.

YEAR BUILT: 1854

NEIGHBORHOOD: Norwood (in Nelson)

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Julie Bendle, Mountain Area Realty 361-2440

Attention, home-schooling families! Take a close look at this interesting property about 40 minutes south of town.

The house's six bedrooms and four acres provide plenty of space for many little scholars to sleep and exercise. But even better, for a mere $120,000 extra, you can have a gen-u-wine schoolhouse right over the hill, where you can drill the three Rs and set up the chemistry set with no worries that your little Lavoisier will blow your home sky-high.

There's much to recommend this property to folks other than home-schoolers, too. People who have dreamed of opening a bed and breakfast should consider the benefits of a sturdy brick pre-Civil War dwelling that seems to be in fairly authentic condition (with the exception of an addition at the back that doesn't detract too much from the days-of-yore feel).

Wide front double porches overlook the Norwood post office, an old church, the railroad tracks, and not far beyond, the James River. The area immediately around the house, while overgrown, nevertheless has pretty hibiscus and hollyhocks outside the door and an interesting large rock outcropping beside the driveway. There's a chicken coop for your budding Mendel's ag classes, and a huge storage shed for auto mechanics and woodshop.

Inside, the house is just what you'd expect in a place built so long ago. The woodwork is exceptional narrow-strip pine floors are laid in patterns almost like parquet, and several of the door frames feature intricate carvings. The current owner, an artist, has decorated almost every flat surface with murals and paintings– which may or may not be to a new owner's taste. However that may be, they add an interesting dimension.

There are fireplaces in almost every room, including two huge unfinished bedrooms on the third floor. The house is heated by oil-fired radiators, a plus in our book, and the thick walls and shade trees might make air conditioning unnecessary, another bonus.

The bathrooms and kitchen are rudimentary, as would be expected in an old house that hasn't been modernized. That's good and bad no showers, but also no nods to current foolish WC fads such as bidets and gargantuan Jacuzzis. Of course, if the place were to be slated for a B&B, those sorts of "improvements" would be required.

The old schoolhouse is currently being used as the owner's studio, and it has plumbing (an outdoor pump), electricity, and space heaters. It also has a beautiful metal roof and the same gorgeous old-glass windows as the main house. (They are one of the real plusses of the house, most of them six­over-six, some reaching all the way to the ceiling and some in the attic all the way to the floor.)

In all, this is an interesting property with many possible uses. The schoolhouse, obviously, adds significantly to the appeal not only for gluttons for punishment who want to teach the kids at home, but also for people who might enjoy having a spacious guest cottage to offer friends from out of town– or even just from town.

And that raises the most obvious drawback of la maison Cabell: its location. Yes, we never heard of Norwood either. It's in southern Nelson County, between Wingina and Arrington, accessible to Lynchburg and Wintergreen as easily as to Charlottesville.

If those are benefits in your book, paste a little star beside this story, and call the agent to schedule your visit.