Hostel territory

Dear Ace: Some friends of mine are passing through Charlottesville, but I don’t have enough room in my apartment to put them up for the weekend, and their shoestring budget—to say nothing of their enormous, shaggy beards—puts most local hotels, inns and bed & breakfasts out of their range. Where in this town might a group of young backpackers find fun, affordable lodging during their visit?—Banking-on-bunkspace-in-Charlottesville

It sounds to Ace like you’re describing a youth hostel. Ace would know—during his carefree youth, Ace spent a summer hitchhiking up I-95. Ah, those were the days: living out of a suitcase, wearing the same thing—a trench coat, mostly—day after day. Come to think of it, not much has changed.

Point is, Ace knows a hostel when he sees one. And of all the lodging options on offer in Charlottesville, only one establishment fits the category: the Alexander House, on 1205 Monticello Road in Belmont.

Alexander House has been operating since Mare Hunter, whose grandmother ran a boarding house in Charlotte, NC during the 30s and 40s, founded the business in 2005. On October 1, 2009, Hunter sold Alexander House to a group of young entrepreneurs, who currently run it as a co-operative. In other words, the house’s six-person staff equally shares ownership and responsibility for the property, as well as decision-making power regarding its operation.

Formerly a one-storey, three-bedroom inn, Alexander House is expanding next week to include an adjacent bunkhouse, featuring three sets of bunk beds in a single co-ed dormitory. The going rate for a bed is $30 per night, while private single rooms cost $75. Additionally, the entire house, entire bunkhouse, or both are available for rental. Price of a stay includes coffee, tea, bread, butter, jelly and fruit, and guests can store and make their own food in the house’s kitchen space.

So who what kind of people use a hostel in Charlottesville? In an e-mail, Alexander House shareholder Lun Brown describes the clientele as “a very eclectic crowd,” including cross-country cyclists, couples getting away for the weekend, prospective UVA students, and world travelers passing through town. Business, notwithstanding a winter slump and weather-related cancellations, has been “better than our projections,” according to Brown, who expects a busy spring and summer season, and says that the house has been booked solid for UVA’s graduation weekend for several months already.

Interested? Then don’t miss Alexander’s House’s grand opening of its bunk area on Sunday, March 14 from 1-5pm. Live music, refreshments, and local art on display—what more could a wayfaring traveler ask for?

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 21 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to ace@c-ville.com

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