1880s-era Bon Air house listed for sale after seven-year rehab

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The house at 8614 Rockaway Road hit the market in recent weeks. (Images courtesy of CVRMLS)

One of the oldest homes still standing in Bon Air is seeking its next caretaker after a yearslong restoration.

The Victorian-style house at 8614 Rockaway Road, which dates to the 1880s, recently hit the market with an asking price of $899,000. Expanded to 4,000 square feet, the house is just off Buford Road next door to the Old Bon Air Hotel Apartments building, a just-as-old annex of the Bon Air Hotel that once stood nearby.

Owner Jim Courtney bought the house in foreclosure for about $220,000 in 2015 and is looking to sell the property after just wrapping up a seven-year restoration that returned the altered structure to its original appearance.

The rear addition resembles an original portion of the structure that was removed.

With some help from friends and neighbors, but largely on his own, Courtney restored the home’s interiors with period-appropriate details and built a rear addition. From the outside, the expansion resembles part of the original structure that had been relocated to form part of another house next door.

Courtney said he’s selling because he needs a place with more land, but is willing to keep the house if it doesn’t find the right buyer.

“I restore and race old vintage cars, and I want to build a shop,” he said. “If we don’t sell it, that’s OK. I could build a shop here. It just wouldn’t be exactly what I wanted. I don’t want to put so much back here that it hurts the aesthetic appeal of the neighborhood.”

An undated photo of the original house.

The house is one of a handful that got the Chesterfield neighborhood rolling. Built in the early 1880s, it was a summer home for James Blythe Moore, a Richmond businessman who helped form the Bon Air Land and Improvement Co. of Virginia, which set out to create a summer resort near Richmond.

“We’re not sure if it’s the oldest or the second-oldest home in Bon Air,” Courtney said. “He had a house in Church Hill; this was his summer cottage. Back in the day, where the tennis courts are over there was a train station, and they used to take the train from Church Hill here.”

Courtney, who is active with the Bon Air Historical Society and helps organize the annual Victorian Day Festival parade, had previously restored two other houses, including one on McDonough Street in Richmond’s Woodland Heights. A deputy fire chief for Henrico County, he said he’s always had an affinity for history.

The main house features curved wooden banisters up the stairway.

“I race old vintage cars, my family owns an old plantation on the Mattaponi River that we’ve owned since the Revolutionary War, so I’ve just always been into old stuff,” he said.

Laughing, he added, “Old stuff that I can’t afford.”

Courtney said he put several hundred thousand dollars into the restoration. He built the addition with Bill Stotesberry, known as “Carpenter Bill,” who lent his hand before dying of cancer three years ago.

The restored living room includes opposite-facing gas fireplaces.

A neighbor, Darrell Basinger, created banisters for the addition, and local roofer Scott Myers handled the metalwork for the roof. Reclaimed pine for the floors came from E.T. Moore Manufacturing.

With items purchased primarily from Caravati’s, Courtney restored the main house with period-appropriate details, many of them salvaged from demolished buildings in Richmond. He said the bricks are from a demolished 1600s-era church in Church Hill, while some of the doors are from the demolished Cary Street mansion that housed the Marymount School for Girls.

The wooden siding was specially milled and cut by hand, and Courtney built the pulleyed-and-mitered casement windows that feature handblown glass to match the main house windows. The addition even features period-appropriate lightning rods.

The kitchen was gutted and updated with a commercial range and farmhouse kitchen.

Blending old with new, Courtney incorporated modern amenities such as central air and heat, and gutted and updated the kitchen, which features a farmhouse sink imported from England. The new-construction addition appears new, though the added bedrooms and bathrooms include their own 19th century-era features, such as one-inch-thick pieces of slate used for the bathrooms’ floors.

The three-story addition is not a replica of the former structure, as Courtney raised each level two more feet to make 10-foot ceilings. Nonetheless, the addition’s exterior closely resembles the portion of the house as it appears in old photos.

Friends and neighbors held several wall-setting parties to help with the project. (Photo courtesy of Jim Courtney)

With the addition, the house now totals seven bedrooms and 3½ bathrooms. The main house features heart pine flooring, floor-to-ceiling windows, four fireplaces and a wraparound porch, as well as such details as transom window operators and a curved wooden banister running the length of the three-level stairway.

The addition features a first-floor primary suite and top-floor playroom. Separated from the main house by an enclosed breezeway, the addition lends itself for use as a guest house but is part of the overall structure.

Courtney listed the house with James Strum and Lee Hutchinson with Long & Foster’s Strum Group. Childhood friends, Strum and Hutchinson grew up in Bon Air, and Hutchinson and Courtney struck a friendship in recent years.

“I grew up here and have passed this house all my life, so it means a lot to us to have this listing,” Hutchinson said. “I was just lucky enough to meet Jim and become friends with him, and he’s done such a phenomenal job historically restoring it. It means a lot to us to be a part of this.”

Childhood friends James Strum, left, and Lee Hutchinson grew up in Bon Air and are listing the house. (Photo courtesy of The Strum Group)

Since listing the house May 12 and relisting it June 2 with updated information, Hutchinson said they’ve received initial interest in the house and had their first showing over the weekend.

With his third house under his belt, Courtney said this one will be his last.

“I won’t do another one, or I’ll pay someone to do it,” he said dryly. “I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another old house, but I would probably try to get somebody to help me.

“This became kind of suffocating, because I wanted to get it done, but I was tired and I wanted to do other things. And when you’re in the middle of this, it’s just so consuming.”

If he could do it all over again, Courtney said, “I may have built a garage in lieu of the guest house. But I learned from my house on McDonough Street that it’s not the garage that sells a house or makes it valuable; it’s bathrooms, bedrooms.

“And historically, I wanted to bring it back,” he said. “It’s just, once I built this, it was kind of like, ‘Oh, well, there’s not a lot of room left for my garage.’”