Every place has a history, but the past at some homes looms especially large. In Albemarle County, the name Kluge is synonymous with lavish wealth, wine and, unfortunately, bankruptcy. Locals—and the rest of the country—watched the fortune of Patricia Kluge rise and fall over her three decades or so in town, and a curious byproduct of the whole saga is that now there’s a house up for sale, modest by Kluge standards but still far from ordinary, in which she once lived.
Many potential buyers (and, we’re guessing, curiosity seekers) will be attracted to the aura of celebrity surrounding this listing. Her story climaxed, of course, with Donald Trump buying Kluge’s enormous estate, Albemarle House, in 2012 for $6.5 million (the mansion had once been listed at $100 million). He’d already bought her vineyard and winery the previous year.
Where do you go when financial ruin chases you out of your 45-room palace? In Kluge’s case, the answer was 2621 Coopers Ln.—a deceptively ho-hum address for a home that, in any other context, would seem impressive in its own right.
Kluge and her husband, Robert Moses, called this place home for a relatively short time, and likely never imagined they’d live there when they had it built on spec in 2007. It was the only house built in what they envisioned as an exclusive gated community called Vineyard Estates, just down the road from Albemarle House.
There’s the history, and then there’s the house. No one’s lived there in about four years. Vineyard Estates did not prove to be a hot seller, and Coopers Lane winds among still-unbuilt lots, its curves lined with neglected landscaping. The sense of eerie absence only increases when you turn into the short driveway of No. 2621, an imposing house where Kluge’s financial breakdown seems mirrored by entropy of a more physical kind.
Clearly, this place was designed to wow. Its 7,100 square feet are arranged in a highly symmetrical layout, and formal gardens wrap around the house. Yet even with a casual look, a visitor can begin to appreciate the situation: This is a home that, despite being built to impress less than a decade ago, is already deteriorating. It’ll need to be rescued soon.
Some problems are not too daunting. Weeds and overgrown rosebushes in the gardens are relatively easy to address. Perhaps the espaliered fruit trees can be rehabbed.
Inside the front entry, the house splays out left and right along a single long hallway, culminating in the kitchen and mudroom at one end, and the master suite at the other. The great room directly ahead is a showpiece, with two fireplaces, three sets of French doors to the back patio and exposed ceiling trusses.
Some of the details here are full of character —the curved staircase, the built-in bookcases that symmetrically appear at both ends of the hallway, the floral wallpaper in the dining room. Others seem to hint at this house’s origin, a place that was built with no one particular in mind. The powder room, for example, is done in a bland style that recalls a nice, but not designer, hotel—as though the expectation was that someone would buy the house, rip this bathroom out and redo it to her own liking.
The kitchen has more personality, with a roomy country feel and some luxurious touches, like the pair of large wine caves in the butler’s pantry. Upstairs, three of four bedrooms have en suite bathrooms, and a capacious hallway at the top of the stairs is a room in itself.
However, the details that prospective buyers will want to inspect most closely are those that speak of repairs and maintenance. The kitchen floor, for example—cork with a faux-stone finish—has been damaged by water near the patio door and the refrigerator. That’s both a replacement job and an indication of problematic leaks. Many of the windows, too, have moisture trapped between the panes: potentially a very expensive fix. Paint is peeling; siding is damaged.
Perhaps someone in the market for a large, traditional home would be willing to take on such projects. After everything is patched up, what will that buyer have? A nearly $2 million house on a not-very-impressive three-acre lot; a house whose design in some respects feels half-hearted. (The pool, for instance, is more like a symbol of a pool than something to actually swim in.) A house that sits alone in a neighborhood that never came to be.
All in all, even without taking the Kluge history into account, it’s a very odd situation. And it’ll take an odd person to see this as home.
Address: 2621 Coopers Ln., Charlottesville
Year built: 2007
Baths: 5 full, 2 half
Square footage (finished): 7,100
Extras: Garage, pool