Fun Times, the Arts and Real Estate Thrive in Scottsville

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Fun Times, the Arts and Real Estate Thrive in Scottsville

By Celeste M. Smucker –

Do you long for a quiet, laid-back place loaded with unique amenities that is still near  enough to Charlottesville to allow an easy commute? If so, the town of Scottsville, a diverse and scenic community a few miles south of town on Route 20, may be just the thing.

Located at a bend in the James River at the intersection of Routes 20 and 6, the town overlaps the three counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna and Buckingham. Residents are proud of its historic past, as reflected in 153 nationally recognized and historically significant buildings, as well as of the growing number of attractions that make it a vibrant and desirable place to both visit and live.

The town’s river location meant it once suffered from frequent flooding that often forced business owners to move out and leave boarded up buildings behind.  All of that ended in 1980, however, when Federal money helped pay for a levee to protect Scottsville from flooding and allowed  commerce to thrive once again.

The completion of a Streetscape project in 2013 helped to further transform the downtown area into an inviting and attractive place for businesses and their customers. 

Today Scottsville has an active real estate market with options for everyone from first time buyers  to those looking for special properties like historic homes, farms and estates, a river view or the perfect piece of land for a new home.

Once settled, residents enjoy a quiet country lifestyle, enhanced by fun outdoor activities, essential shopping, the arts, music, restaurants and historic preservation all close to home.

Scottsville Welcomes You
Scott Ward with 1st Dominion Realty, Inc. describes Scottsville as a “great little town, friendly and welcoming.” Residents who want to socialize will find it easy to make new friends while they enjoy a very different experience from what he called “the hustle and bustle” of life in a more metropolitan area. 

A Scottsville native, Ward once moved to Norfolk where hustle and bustle were a daily experience. After a time, though, he realized he preferred his home town’s relaxed, laid-back lifestyle where things are “slow on purpose.” 

Larry Barnett, with the Old Ivy office of Long and Foster Real Estate, is a transplant who loved to  visit Scottsville before he and his wife decided to move there permanently and enjoy a quieter life full time. He described the town as a place with a “wonderful mix of people from all walks of life.” 

Barnett is a former Texan who retired from a career at the Pentagon in 1977.  Initially he was concerned his wife, a native of Manhattan, would have difficulty adapting to Scottsville’s country lifestyle. However,  the wonderful warm welcome they received made all the difference and neither of them has ever regretted the move.

Debi Dotson with Real Estate III,  another transplant, has enjoyed the Scottsville experience for over 23 years.  Her parents moved from New York and joined her there when they retired, preferring it to nearby communities. Dotson described her town as “the perfect place,” that is vibrant and friendly and attracts people who like art and music.

Real Estate Market
Scottsville’s location at the intersection of three counties gives home buyers multiple choices of  school systems and lifestyles. Albemarle County is closest to Charlottesville with more jobs, while Buckingham offers better prices on homes and noticeably lower taxes.  Buyers who like to have close contact with their neighbors may opt for living in Fluvanna County where they can choose from a variety of  homes built on smaller lots. 

REALTORS® who specialize in Scottsville are optimistic about the market. The real estate website, Trulia, reports a year over year increase in the median sales prices for the area and agents describe a shortage of inventory, especially at the low end of the market.

Sales continue to improve, Dotson said adding that homes priced under $200 thousand don’t stay on the market long.  She said that sales have even picked up in Buckingham County, which often lags behind the other two. 

“There’s lots going on out there,” she said. Buyers like the lower taxes and prices and are especially pleased that Buckingham has good internet access, unlike many rural locations.    

The market is moving along at an “OK clip,” Ward said.  He is happy about what he believes is a recent interest in land sales citing a two acre building lot that sold in just two weeks. Ward’s long time, family-owned company recently merged with First Dominion Realty, Inc.

First time buyers can still find a nice place to live in the Scottsville area, but the fast pace of sales in the under $200 thousand range means they need to be pre-qualified and ready to make an offer as soon as they find something they like, Dotson said.

It used to be easier for first timers, Ward observed.  It wasn’t long ago they would find options under $100,000.  However many of those homes have been bought up, rehabbed and sold or rented by investors.

Barnett described an active residential market, especially in the under $200 thousand price range. He recently sold two residential properties that he personally owned and added that Scottsville’s commercial market is also strong.

Scottsville Home Buyers
Scottsville agents see buyers  from Northern Virginia and the northeast, New Jersey and Pennsylvania as well as points south such as North Carolina and Florida. Two of Barnett’s recent sales were to buyers from Ohio and Colorado.  He believes the Scottsville area is especially attractive to retirees and people working from home.

Ward has worked with a number of families that pass through Scottsville, find the area appealing, walk in the door of his real estate office and decide then and there to buy a house. 

In a recent incident he was at a party celebrating his company’s merger with 1st Dominion Realty when a family of five walked in the door. They were passing through town on their way to Florida where they owned a home. After a chat about the local market, they sold the  Florida house and paid cash for one near Scottsville. 

It’s not unusual for Dotson to help first time buyers who work in Charlottesville, but who now live in Scottsville to be near family. Often these are people who grew up in the area and decide they love it too much to leave, Dotson explained. 

It’s not just first timers that locate there, however.  Barnett has a listing in the town of Scottsville, a lovely, historic Victorian home built in 1897 and designed by  D. Wiley Anderson, a famous Richmond area architect.  He is excited about recent interest from buyer prospects and anticipates the home won’t be on the market long.

Active and Fun
Many of Scottsville’s visitors come regularly to enjoy the restaurants, shops and activities like tubing on the river. 

One popular activity is a Thursday evening event at Tavern on the James.  Called Party on the Patio it features Ward who, in addition to being a successful REALTOR® and appraiser, is an accomplished musician. 

He is often accompanied by the “quite talented,” Ethan Hamburg who formerly toured with Merle Haggard.  He invites you to join the fun, casual event (“rednecks in Hawaiian shirts and flip flops” welcome), and advises arriving early to get a good seat.   

River activities like canoeing, kayaking and tubing are also a big draw bringing visitors from around the area.  If you go to hear Ward perform at Tavern on the James on a Thursday evening, you may even hear a song he wrote called “Captain of the Inner Tube.” He wrote it for the tubers who come to Scottsville with a cooler of beer to enjoy a day on the river while snapping selfies of their sunburns. 

The river is also the scene of another Scottsville event, the James River Batteau Festival, celebrated every year in June. Batteaux are flat bottomed boats that hauled people and goods to Richmond via Scottsville before railroads and interstates.  Participants in this annual event build their own batteaux and recreate part of this journey dressed in period costumes. 

Or experience life as it once was by taking a ride on the Hatton Ferry. On weekends between April and October, visitors can ride across the river between Albemarle and Buckingham Counties just west of Scottsville on what is the last poled ferry in the United States.   

Another popular Scottsville attraction is the Van Clief natural area, a 63-acre park right in town that features Scottsville Lake.  The lake is stocked with trout by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and is open to the public. 

The town is also proud of its restaurants that bring out residents along with outsiders. Barnett, who has been in Scottsville for years, said it is not unusual for him to walk into a packed restaurant for Sunday brunch and see many more tables of visitors than locals.

The arts are also a high point of Scottsville life, including Gallery 527 located on Valley Street that features functional art from local artists.  Barnett described it as “absolutely wonderful,” and confided he often finds the perfect gifts there for his wife.

For those who want a place to read, talk or just hang out, Scottsville has its own coffee and book store, Baines Scottsville. An independently owned bookshop based in Appomattox, it features espresso drinks and food such as baked goods, quiches and salads. Baines is known as a great place to relax and surf the net while you catch up on local gossip.

Rich History
Scottsville served as Albemarle’s County seat from 1744 until 1761, but lost that distinction to Charlottesville where the County’s  government offices have been ever since.

When the river was essential for commerce, the town’s location on the James made it an important commercial center. As a drop-off  point for agricultural goods moving between Staunton and Richmond, Scottsville became one of the largest grain markets in the state and home to many wealthy families. 

During the Revolutionary War the town housed an ammunition storehouse in what was formerly the municipal courthouse.  In the Civil War it served the Confederate cause by transporting supplies to the battlefields and providing a hospital for soldiers. 

However, Union troops did major damage to the canal in an effort to cut Confederate supply lines diminishing Scottsville’s importance. By the late 1800s, when river traffic gave way to rail, the town  lost what remained of  its prominence.

Today, though, Scottsville is popular once again and known as a quaint, artsy and thriving community next door to Charlottesville. For more information, give your REALTOR® a call.  If you are like other home buyers, you will find just what you are looking for in this nearby place that has so much to offer visitors and residents of all ages and interests.


Celeste Smucker is a writer, and blogger who lives near Charlottesville.

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