Fondue paradise: The '60s are just across town

ADDRESS: 1825 Yorktown Drive

NEIGHBORHOOD: Meadowbrook Heights


ASKING: $469,000


SIZE: 3,194 fin. sq. ft., 525 unfin.

LAND: 0.506 acres

CURB APPEAL: 6 out of 10

LISTED BY: Bob Hughes, Summit Realty 980-4534

If you reached your limit with the present state of affairs and have been down in the basement trying to build a time machine to take you back to the happy, carefree days of the late '50s and early '60s– all the excitement of the handsome new President, that beloved black Viewmaster in the maroon box, Red Skelton, and Jello salad– come back upstairs. All the allure of that simpler time can be yours just across town.

This split level was built in 1963, commissioned by a law professor in the city's first subdivision. Houses down at the other end of Yorktown are earlier– one swanky low-slung number was built in '55– and together they create an almost shivery out-of-body sensation. Baby Boomers who want to relive their youth should drive around over there for a surreal experience. In fact, it may have been just that feeling that prompted the current owner to buy this house– it reportedly reminded him of sites of zany adolescent escapades.

The hidden front door– it's on the side beside a tiny Japanese garden, invisible from the street– leads to a split foyer with small coat closet. The oak floors are covered with carpeting that would brighten up after a close encounter with a steam vac.

The wide stairs lead down to a living/dining room divided by a big wood-burning fireplace with raised brick hearth. The floors in this large room are soapstone– unusual in a house of this vintage, and striking. The current owners are using the dining room as a music room because– beyond the large kitchen– a former screened porch has been enclosed to create a huge sunroom with windows on three sides that they're using for the dining room.

The kitchen is an appealing mix of then and now. When adding an island, a six-burner professional gas stove, and a commercial range hood custom-made for the space (to vent sideways), the owners decided to leave the funky old-school cabinets and laminate countertops. But the result is weirdly appealing, like almost everything else in the house. Nostalgia is a powerful force.

Between the kitchen and the large Pergo-floored sunroom is an eat-in breakfast area big enough to double as a dining room in the dead of winter when closing off the larger room makes sense (it has its own heating system). Bookshelves are plentiful here as well as in the sunroom, and they add to the charm of the whole first level.

Upstairs are four bedrooms and two full baths– one with washer and dryer, and one beyond a small dressing area in the master suite. The bedrooms are larger than those in many houses in new subdivisions, and all have those split-level side-slider windows providing views to the "mature plantings" in the landscaped yard. Louvered bi-fold doors– what else?– enclose large closets in all the bedrooms.

The orientation of the house, according to the owner, is such that sunshine penetrates the windows all day long. A large overhang provides ventilation and protection from the worst of the summer's rays, and large pines and cedars undoubtedly do their part as well.

Like a house we reviewed recently on Rugby Avenue, the orientation here also means that what you see from the street is not an accurate depiction of the house. Nasty electrical boxes, inexplicably painted an eyesore rust color, mar the little bit of the house visible from the street beside the overpowering two-car garage. Views revealing the true character of the place are available only from the rear garden. For that reason, it's difficult to tell where the real "front" of the house is.

And speaking of that garage, it's accessed by steps from the kitchen, providing the third level required for what an Internet architecture site calls a "split-level raised ranch"– and if there ever was one, this is it. Down in the garage is another wacky surprise– a thing that looks like a Cold-War bunker, but which turns out to be a high-tech wine cellar, with R-40 insulation on all sides and its own cooling set-up to keep what could be hundreds of bottles of vino happy at a comfy 57 degrees year 'round.

The owner says that when Charlottesville old-timers find out where he lives, they regale him with stories of famous parties in this house back in the day. Anyone interested in reviving those happy high-ball and fondue shindigs has found the perfect setting.