Schoolhouse rocks: County home blends past and present

Address: 4383 Mechums School Hill
Year built:  
1884? 1903? (sources conflict)
Square footage:
  2635 finished, 0 unfinished
Asking Price:
Curb Appeal:
  7 out 10
Listing Agent:
 Sally DuBose, Virginia Real Estate Partners, 434-981-0289

It’s not unusual to find an Albemarle County home that blends past and present, but finding one that melds a former schoolhouse with an architect-designed addition that includes an art gallery is rather exceptional.

Tucked away atop a hill off 250 West just beyond the railroad trestle, 4382 Mechums School Hill bears testament to the village that once stood near the confluence of the Mechums River and Lickinghole Creek. Historical records indicate that Mechum’s Depot was already established when it was included in a patent for 1,300 acres in 1737.

The area around the depot eventually gave rise to a community that included Jarman’s Mill and Price’s Hotel, which preceded the schoolhouse, though by exactly how many years remains unclear. According to roll books contained in the University of Virginia Library, records extend as far back as 1884 when the school was known as Albemarle School #8. 

According to the Preservation Directory, the area’s big claim to fame came in 1862 when Confederate troops, led by Stonewall Jackson, withdrew from the Valley. Though his 6,000 soldiers camped in the woods around the area, Jackson is rumored to have spent the night at Price’s Hotel before he and his men returned to Staunton by train, outflanking and thoroughly routing the Union troops who thought he had retreated to Richmond.

Fast forward another 150 years and the Mechum’s River community has largely disappeared. Price’s Hotel is now a private residence as is the former one-room schoolhouse, which has been expanded into a three-bedroom residence. 

Slate steps lead to a long tiled entry that doubles as an art gallery extending across the front of the house and opening onto the living room. Wide-plank heart pine floors, original to the schoolhouse, lend a touch of old-world charm, but perhaps the most extraordinary feature of this house is the amount of light that floods in through the 12-foot Palladian windows that run along the back of the house and the French doors that open onto the deck.

The floor plan is casual with the main living spaces— library, living room and dining area— flowing comfortably, separated only by cased openings and half-walls. Together with the galley kitchen, these rooms comprise the original schoolhouse.

The addition, built by Abrahamse & Co., includes the art gallery, a two-bedroom suite with sitting room, full bath and private entrance and a second-floor master suite that contains a full bath and a screened sleeping porch.

In addition to allowing light, the numerous windows afford lovely views of the grounds and the mountains beyond. Passing traffic along Route 250 is audible from the yard, and the train can certainly be heard when it rumbles by, as it can from virtually any Crozet location, but the house itself is well-insulated and quiet.

The kitchen offers a mix of vintages on the appliances— a modern dishwasher and refrigerator share space with an older oven and cooktop — and the countertops are Formica.  But there are glass-fronted cabinets, built-in shelves, a large pantry, and a charming porch that offers a prime spot for enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning.

It’s this appealing mix of past and present, which characterizes not just the kitchen, but the entire residence, that gives this home much of its charm. 

Situated off the beaten path, this house will not appeal to purchasers looking for a showcase McMansion or to those who choose to advertise their affluence to their neighbors. With just one other house sharing the hill, there’s no real audience to play to here. But artists, writers, or those who appreciate the value of a privately-situated, light-filled sanctuary may feel differently.