Dream big: Old manor house can morph

ADDRESS: 550 Valley Street

ASKING: $395,000

BUILDING: 3,971 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: 0.29 acres



CURB APPEAL: 8 of 10

LISTED BY: Sally DuBose Real Estate III West, 979-0174

Everyone who drives through Scottsville is probably familiar with this large white house beside the funeral home. It's easily the most noticeable place on Valley Street, the main route through town.

Since 1916 when it was built, the house has had just two owners: Dr. Luther Stinson and his family, and the current owner, Oliver Kuttner. He bought the place from Mrs. Stinson, who's now over 100 years old. Kuttner, a well-known developer, transformed the original single-family home into three large apartments. From here, anything's possible.

People who've been watching the renovation of the place are probably wondering what's going on. The answer is that all the basics have been taken care of. The slate roof seems in fine shape, all exterior woodwork has been snugged and joined, the oil-fired hot-water radiator heating system provides the best kind of winter warmth, and the plaster walls (in all but one room) are good as new and primed, ready for the new owner's color choices.

An elegant brick patio has been completed just off the kitchen, and the large wrap-around porch has been restored to its former glory (even to the sky-blue ceiling). That porch is one of the best things about the house. Sweeping around three sides of the house upstairs and down, it's a reminder of times gone by, and from the second level, views of rooftops and steeples close and far are like a classic painting.

The beauty of a work-in-progress is that it's all potential– here limited only by a new buyer's imagination. Being traditionalists, we'd like to see the place return to its former glory as a single-family house. With a large kitchen, two full bathrooms (one already renovated in high style, with beautiful rustic tile), large rooms of graceful proportions (with fireplaces), a charming outbuilding for a nanny or rental income, and that grand porch, it could be the in-town rival of any manor house in the surrounding countryside.

With Scottsville's current renaissance, returning the place to multiple rental units might make sense (although it would break our heart). The former configuration of three units (using the basement as part of one, along with one side of the main level) worked well and could easily be recreated.

But the property's commercial zoning makes many other options possible. A bed and breakfast might work, given the relative dearth of Scottsville accommodations. A law or insurance firm could gussy it up to make a swanky impression– frugal barristers might even enjoy the prospect of living upstairs and gliding downstairs to work each morning.

The outbuilding deserves special mention. During Dr. Stinson's tenure, the first level was the garage– the chauffer driver lived upstairs. The new brick patio has foreclosed the possibility of using the space for cars, but at the same time has increased its charm as separate living quarters. Kuttner has added a new fireplace in what could be a unique master-bedroom suite on the second level (a big bath has been roughed in).

The property bumps up against a hill, but leveling it and adding a retaining wall would make possible a second-level patio or garden accessed from the house and from the outbuilding by cross-over "bridges" that would create a unique backyard living and entertaining space.

We can't provide much detail about the full attic because it's closed off with a big scary trap door like something out of The Shining. But one peek revealed that it's huge and useful for storage if not as actual living space. The small yard has been planted with tiny boxwoods to complement the existing established specimens around the porch. In all, there's a lot to work with at 550 Valley Street.

When the place is finished– whether as a grand single-family residence or an elegant law office or upscale bed and breakfast– it has the potential of being a true showplace.