By Ken Wilson –
It has Blue Ridge views and Starr Hill brews, and it has a treasured piece of Virginia history, Crozet does. And it’s ready for its close-up.
Quiet, lovely, and only a 15-20 minute drive from Charlottesville, the little town known for the railroad overpass, the old train depot, and the pizza joint National Geographic called the best in the world, is sprucing up, growing out, and enjoying a rising standard of living.
Situated alongside Route 250 and not far off I-64, “crow-zay” (sounds much better than “crah-zit’) is approximately 12 miles west of Charlottesville and 21 miles east of Staunton. Originally named “Wayland’s Crossing,” it was renamed in 1875 in honor of Colonel Claudius Crozet, the French-born civil engineer behind the construction of the Blue Ridge Tunnel (1850-1858) for the rail line connecting Charlottesville to Staunton.
Crozet covers a total area of 9.7 kilometers according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and has a median home value of $332,000. Its growing population of roughly 6,620 is a well-educated: 32 percent of its residents have earned a Master’s degree or higher, 27 percent have a Bachelor’s degree, and 19 percent have an Associate’s degree or have taken some college classes.
Crozet is also a youngish community, with a median age of 38 and a half. “Crozet is becoming a central hub for folks who work in Charlottesville, who want to be close enough to town but have all the amenities of Crozet,” says REALTOR® Angus Arrington IV with Real Estate III.
“I have been here 33 years,” says Roy Wheeler Realty Co. REALTOR® John Updike, marveling at the transformation he’s seen. “When I first moved here the only grocery store was the IGA” (now Crozet Market, with a bakery and deli). “If you wanted something else, you’d have to go into town to get it. I’ve watched Crozet develop over the years. The growth has been pretty amazing.”
“Back in the day I always said ‘Ten years from now Crozet is going to be a great place to live.’ Ten years has gone by pretty quick and I think what I said holds true. Whether it’s a drugstore or grocery store, most of what you need is now in Crozet. It has become a become a self-sustaining community.”
“Crozet is a beautiful area surrounded by mountain views,” says REALTOR® Greg Slater of Nest Realty, who moved to town in 2009. “It has a small town feel with all the benefits of community and the relationships caused by that environment. The schools are recognized as some of the best in the area and many choose Crozet for that reason. There are plenty of amenities as well in the form of outdoor activities and entertainment.”
“Crozet has three economic hubs,” notes REALTOR® Jim Duncan with Nest Realty: “Downtown, Old Trail Village, and the Route 250 corridor where Harris Teeter is.” Route 240 is busy as well.
Next door to each other on the original historic Three Notched Road are the entertainment marketing company Musictoday, founded and run by Dave Matthews Band manager Coran Capshaw, and one of the area’s first breweries, Starr Hill.
The tiny old downtown is where Bob and Karen Crum and their four children opened Crozet Pizza in 1977 in an old, unoccupied building they rehabbed themselves, serving gourmet pizzas back in the day when the usual options were pepperoni, sausage or cheese.
Today their daughter, Colleen, her husband Mike Alexander, and their three daughters, operate the restaurant that’s earned high praise from National Geographic, Fodor’s, Food Network Magazine and The Washington Post.
The oldest store in town is the Modern Barber Shop, a family-run business dating to 1933. Crozet Hardware first opened, albeit in another location, in 1949. Two doors down, Charlottesville coffee shop owners John and Lynelle Lawrence opened their Crozet Mudhouse in 2009.
Around the corner and down a block or so is the Crozet Library. Long housed in a 1923-vintage Chesapeake and Ohio Railway depot, charming but small, it relocated in 2013 to a new 18,000-square-foot facility with study rooms and conference spaces, a separate section for teens, and a fireplace lounge with rocking chairs and tall windows looking out to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Today the old train station is the Crozet Artisan Depot, showcasing a collection of handmade arts, crafts and accessories by over 70 regional artisans. Sharing the space is the Tourism and Adventure Center run by the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Some of Crozet’s most popular destinations from spring through fall are its orchards.
At Chiles Peach Orchard and Farm Market, the Chiles family first planted peach trees back in 1912, shipping the crop all over the country for commercial production. In 1974, when a bad freeze left them with so little fruit that the usual picking and packing routine wasn’t worth its while, they put an ad in the paper, set up a card table, scales and a cigar box, and hoped for the best. They sold out.
Local pickers have been welcome since, as what was meant to be a one-time, emergency measure became an annual April through November, pick-your-own-fruit tradition. Today they offer peaches, strawberries, sweet cherries, pumpkins and seventeen kinds of apples. Visitors will also find a frozen yogurt machine, an ice cream parlor, and numerous enticing fruit products.
Another old Crozet family lends its name to another old Crozet orchard, Henley’s. Joseph T. Henley, Sr. was the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first fruit inspector. In 1932 he purchased five acres of land and planted apple trees, gradually expanding his property to grow nectarines and peaches as well.
Henley’s Orchard has been in the family for four generations now, offering its fruit from mid-June till the end of October. Late-season apples are kept in cold storage and sold throughout the winter until April.
Fruit lovers enjoy healthy bodies, and healthy bodies love to move. Locals sports and recreation fans flock to the 520-acre, wheelchair-accessible Mint Springs Valley Park, with its beach, hiking trails, playgrounds and picnic shelters with grills.
Eight acres of water are stocked with sunfish, channel catfish, and largemouth bass, and U.S. Coast Guard-approved boats with electric motors (no gas) are welcome. The annual Crozet Running Trail 5K is held in Mint Springs each May.
The local YMCA makes its home in Claudius Crozet Park, which also features baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, walking trails, a pool, and a dog park, and hosts the Peachtree Baseball program and the award winning Gators Swim Team. During the park’s annual Arts and Crafts Festival each fall over 120 jury-selected fine art and craft exhibitors sell handcrafted works.
Engaged couples seeking a picturesque setting for their weddings, are grateful for David and Ellen King, who moved to Virginia from Houston, Texas in 1995.
An avid polo player since 1980, David wanted a farm with twelve relatively flat acres for a polo field. Today their Crozet property contains both a polo field and King Family Vineyards, where eighteen different wines are currently for sale.
Field and weather conditions permitting, matches on Roseland Polo Field take place each Sunday at 1:00 pm from Memorial Day Weekend through early October. Gates open at 10:00 a.m. The matches are free and open to the public, and begin at 1:00 pm.
Crozet Real Estate
All this good living attracts homebuyers, and Crozet is an officially designated Albemarle County growth area.
“Crozet has a good mix of existing and new communities,” Slater says. “There are a wide variety of housing opportunities. There are older communities with smaller homes, townhomes, villas, and single family detached homes, and there are opportunities in neighborhoods with HOAs, as well as more rural properties.”
“About 30 percent of the homes that sold this year were built before 2000. About 30 percent were new construction. The other 40 percent fall in between. So far this year the median price for closed home sales is $435,000. The low was $130,000 and there have been three sales in excess of $1 million.”
Growth has brought retail services as well.
Beginning in 2005, Old Trail Village introduced the popular New Urbanism model of living to Crozet: a walkable urban village with a Village Center consisting of 35 apartments and an array of locally owned shops and restaurants, plus an ACAC Fitness and Wellness Center and healthcare facilities.
Seasonal outdoor entertainment in the Village includes family movie nights, craft fairs, markets, festivals and other special weekend events.
Townhomes and single family homes starting at $464,900 ring the Center, and more are going up now—about 1,500 people currently make their home there, a figure that’s expected to triple once construction is finished.
Adjacent are the Old Trail Golf Club and the Kandi Comer Golf Academy, which offers private and group golf lessons for seniors, adults and juniors. Kandi herself has been recognized as one of the top instructors in Virginia by Golf Digest, and her Golf Academy is a Certified GolfDigest Clubfitter.
With all these amenities, it’s no wonder the Crozet community is truly multi-generational. “All demographics are attracted to the Crozet area,” Slater says. “It is not uncommon for family members to migrate into this area to be close to other family that has settled here.”
One option for older residents is The Lodge at Old Trail, a senior living community with rental apartments in the standard categories of Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care. Just a short distance away from the Village’s shops and businesses, it boasts access to a pool, garden, fitness center, athletic fields, golf course, and miles of walking trails.
“Parents, kids, and grandparents can get together at the restaurants or the coffee shop, and see each other but go back to their own homes,” Updike says. “The grandparents are not in some place that feels like an institution they have to go back to. Old Trail has everything from babies to grandparents—to me that’s a great concept.”
Crozet Lore, Crozet Style
Drivers passing by Old Trail in 2007 might have been astonished to see an ark and a number of rather non-native animals—elephants, camels, chimpanzees!—in a neighboring field. Comedy director Tom Shadyac was filming part of “Evan Almighty,” his 2007 take-off on the Biblical Noah’s Ark story updated to the 21st century, in 21st century Crozet.
The film bombed, but if cinematic glory proved elusive, Crozet had won some literary love, thanks to Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy series. Brown set the popular feline mystery novels here, name-checking the town paper, the Crozet Gazette, and incorporating local businesses like Parkway Pharmacy, Crozet Tack and Saddle, and Over the Moon bookstore, all still operational today, into her plots.
The ark is gone, its inhabitants dispersed across the face of the earth, but the area today is graced with an abundance of better appointed domiciles, not to mention better weather and a lot less drama.
“We wanted a slower pace of life” says Jim Duncan, explaining why he moved his family to Crozet in 2002. “It’s been a great place to work, raise kids, coach soccer, ride a bike.” As an avid cyclist, Duncan raves about Crozet Trails, twelve miles of trails accessible by foot, bike or hybrid bike, “a phenomenal asset to Crozet,” he says. “I ride a road bike with a cycling club, and we ride every day of the week. The roads here are world class.”
A world class place to ride, not to mention the great views, rich community, and a relaxed pace of life. What does that sounds like? That sounds like Crozet.