An Albemarle County family is hoping to relocate one of the oldest remaining homes in Crozet from the site of a proposed housing development.
Stanley Martin Homes has sent a letter to neighbors about an informal, private meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday regarding the Pleasant Green project, planned for an area north of Powells Creek. Collins Engineering held a pre-application meeting with the county in June, but no formal applications have been submitted with the county.
Mike Marshall, who owns some of the properties that are being sold for the development, including the circa-1800s house, said that he does not know what’s going to happen to it at this point. He said he has salvage rights as part of the sale, and he has talked to some companies that dismantle old houses for building materials.
“I don’t have any arrangements with any salvage companies; the house still has tenants in it and they haven’t found places to move yet, so they’re in there for the time being,” said Marshall, who is also the editor and publisher of the Crozet Gazette. “Presumably, they’ll move out sometime over the fall and then we’ll be able to find out what is actually salvageable from the building.”
Receipts found in the Library of Virginia show that Claudius Crozet, for whom the area is named, stayed in the Pleasant Green house while the Blue Ridge Railroad was under construction in the mid-19th century, according to local historians.
The original log cabin portion of the house, located on Pleasant Green Street between the railroad tracks and Powells Creek, was built around 1815. A portion of the land was purchased by Jeremiah Wayland in 1832, and the house was expanded into an I-house around 1836, according to Crozet Historic District documents. It later was expanded into its current U shape.
“Instead of just salvaging the [house’s] hickory, could we go a step further and actually save the original log cabin that dates back to these transactions that happened with Jeremiah Wayland,” said Jennie More, a county planning commissioner whose grandmother was born in the home. “Our family would very much like to explore that possibility, but we also understand the property owner has salvage rights and that it may not be possible at all.”
David Wayland, a descendent of Jeremiah, said they want to protect the home as much as they can, adding that many people in Crozet don’t know about it because of its location.
“So many people have moved there that don’t know the history,” he said.
More said she is worried that other historic homes in Crozet will be lost, too.
“We have little control over the loss of these properties, and I think it’s unfortunate one day that so many will be gone. I don’t know where there’s a middle ground there; that you have someone who has property rights and this home is in their way,” she said.
More said the current homeowner has taken good care of the house so far, and she’s grateful that it still exists.
“There're no hard feelings or ill will because, without him having owned that, it could've been lost before I was even old enough to realize what it meant for our family,” she said.
The property is in the Crozet Historic District, an honorary designation that puts it on the National Register of Historic Places, but no regulations come along with that listing.
“The locally designated districts like they have in the city of Charlottesville and hundreds of other places, those have regulations associated with them,” said Margaret Maliszewski, the county’s chief of planning for resource management.
Albemarle County adopted a Historic Preservation Plan in 2000, but a historic preservation ordinance was never enacted. Maliszewski said the Historic Preservation Committee and county staff members have not been directed to start working on a draft ordinance again.
When demolition permits are submitted for a building that has potential historic value, Maliszewski said the county will ask the property owner if historic preservation committee members can come into the building to document it before it’s demolished.
“Without a historic preservation ordinance in place, that’s really the extent of what we can do,” she said.
Maliszewski said finding ways to maintain historic resources is an issue at a personal level for individual property owners, but it’s also an issue at the community level, she said.
“Those buildings do create a character, and it provides a sense of place, it provides a unique sense of place, and that contributes to the quality of life not just for the individual property owner, but for the community as a whole,” she said.
Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local pro-business advocacy organization, said his group is opposed to local historic preservation ordinances because such ordinances “overly restrict property owner rights absent any compensation for this reduction in rights.”
“We have seen ‘historic preservation’ used to oppose growth within the designated development areas,” he said. “If there is a community will to preserve a property, the community should buy it; absent a willingness to purchase the property rights, the community should not use ‘historic preservation’ to usurp the property owners right to buy, sell or develop any parcel,” he said.
Marshall said he doesn’t have anything against More and Wayland documenting the home.
“We don’t know what companies will say about salvaging the house,” he said. “But it’s not going to be just put on to dump trucks and hauled away.”