It’s true what people say: All the great things are simple, and they are especially so if they’re old and cherished. To enter Nancy and Michael McCarthy’s Batesville home is like stepping back in time. Through its iron bar front door to the original wood paneling that follows the space throughout the open floorplan, it’s hard to believe that this is the original Craigs Store, built in 1822—a structure that was once a stage coach stop, a post office, and a general store and that has surely witnessed many lives and daily occurrences in a time that now seems a very distant past.
The McCarthys bought the property in 2008, around the same time they purchased Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie, the beloved pizza joint in North Garden. The house fell in their lap; they were not actively looking to relocate. In fact, they’d just completed a chef’s kitchen in their Downtown Charlottesville residence.
“I just had a very dramatic reaction to it,” said Nancy. “It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I remember walking in the master bedroom and getting teary eyed.”
The kitchen sits on the right corner of the large first floor of the two-story house; it is small and dark, but charming and absolutely perfect. The family who lived in the house in the late 1970s and ’80s did most of the renovations and used materials found around the property.
“The house really lends itself to family life,” said Nancy, looking over at her two young sons, 3 and 1. “It’s very functional. If you are standing in the kitchen making a meal, you can see what the kids are doing and that makes it really easy.”
The McCarthys haven’t done much to renovate the 1970s-era kitchen, aside from changing a light fixture, replacing the old hood fan with a new one, and adding stylish crown molding. But they like it that way; it reflects their new way of life, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. They do have plans to add a soapstone countertop, but are not ready to alter the feel of the house.
“The simpler we live, the happier I am,” she said.
Simple is only in terms of space and finishes, because what the house lacks in that department, it makes up in spectacular views of pastures and nearby farms and an overall peace that is lost in most modern dwellings.
“It’s really majestic and beautiful. We got to sit on the front porch a lot when we first bought it, because we didn’t have children,” Nancy said. “We used to sit there at night and listen to nothing and everything; you could hear the cows chewing the grass.”
Standing at the stainless steel sink, one can work a pizza dough and look out to the hilly meadows in the sun and feel completely at ease. During the “Snowmageddon” a couple of years ago, the silence and white landscape was worthy of a postcard.
“We felt like we were at the end of the earth, because there was nobody driving by,” she said.
Little objects dispersed around the house remind them of the tradition they bought into: the framed 1899 ABC license that hangs in the first floor bathroom; the kitchen cabinets made out of wood from the property; the current playroom that was once a post office. Everywhere you stand, history surrounds you with welcoming warmth—especially the kitchen.
“Food is the heart and soul of our family,” said Nancy. “It feeds us, literally.” It is not surprising considering Michael is a trained chef who bakes between 40 and 150 pizzas every day. Over a lunch of pizza with Virginia ham, figs, blue cheese, golden raisins soaked in cherry vinegar and balsamic, the McCarthys’ reminisce on the old days of city living and the new freedom of living in the country, entertaining relatives, and using the kitchen every day as a family.
“It’s neat to live in a house so old, where so many people have lived in before,” Nancy said.