By Celeste M. Smucker –
“Every day’s a fun day in Scottsville.” – Scott Ward
If it’s time for a move and you prefer a quieter, less urban lifestyle, but still want to be near Charlottesville, consider Scottsville. This diverse, scenic community, just a short commute to the south on Route 20, is set in the midst of a rich agricultural area and boasts a growing number of amenities that make it a vibrant and desirable place to live.
Located at a bend in the James River at the intersection of Routes 20 and 6, the town of Scottsville overlaps the three counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna and Buckingham. Residents there are proud of the town’s rich past, reflected in a downtown that has 153 nationally recognized and historically significant buildings.
In early years, thanks to its close proximity to the river, Scottsville suffered from frequent flooding forcing many downtown business owners to give up, move out and leave boarded up buildings behind. In the 1980s, though, the town gained new life when Federal money helped build a levee that protects it from flooding allowing commerce to resume there. In addition, the completion of a Streetscape project in 2013 made much-needed renovations and transformed the downtown area into an even more inviting and attractive place for businesses and their customers.
Today Scottsville has an active real estate market with plenty of options for first time buyers as well as those looking for special properties like historic homes, farms and estates, a river view or the perfect piece of land for a new home. And those who move there can enjoy a quiet country lifestyle full of outdoor activities, essential shopping, restaurants, historic preservation and locally-based activities without ever leaving home.
A Vibrant and Welcoming Community
Scott Ward with A. Scott Ward Realty, Inc., the oldest locally owned real estate company, described Scottsville as a “great little town, friendly and welcoming,” where it is easy to get to know people and enjoy a very different experience from what he called “the hustle and bustle” of an urban area.
A Scottsville native, Ward moved for a time to Norfolk before returning home to a relaxing, laid-back lifestyle where things are “slow on purpose.”
In addition to his real estate career Ward is a musician with a Thursday evening gig at Tavern on the James called Party on the Patio, a live music happening. Ward describes it as a fun event where he enjoys the “rednecks in Hawaiian shirts and flip flops.”
Larry Barnett, with the Old Ivy office of Long and Foster Real Estate is a transplant who moved to Scottsville after he and his wife decided they would like to live there full time instead of just visiting occasionally. He described the town as a place with a “wonderful mix of people from all walks of life.”
Originally Barnett was concerned his wife, a native of Manhattan, would have difficulty adapting to a country lifestyle joking that her idea of rural back then was living in D.C. However she was won over by what he calls the “most wonderful people, always very welcoming,” and neither of them has ever had any regrets about the move.
Kevin Quick, Associate Broker with RE/MAX Realty Specialists, added that “the Town of Scottsville, the hub for the Scottsville community, was historically described as sleepy.” However, it has “quietly been transforming over recent years into quite a vibrant environment” that is attractive to buyers.
Debi Dotson with BHG Real Estate III is another long-time Scottsvillian having lived there 23 years. Her parents also moved to Scottsville from New York after they retired, preferring it to Charlottesville. Dotson described her town as “the perfect place,” that is vibrant and friendly, a place that caters to people who like arts and music.
Scottsville’s Real Estate
Scottsville’s location at the intersection of three counties gives home buyers multiple choices as each county has its own school system and lifestyle with something special and different to offer. Albemarle is closer to Charlottesville with more jobs, while Buckingham offers better prices on homes and lower taxes. Prices are higher in Fluvanna, and neighborhoods often have smaller lot sizes that appeal to people who like close contact with their neighbors.
All in all, agents who work the area are optimistic about the market.
“Scottsville continues to have a stable real estate market with median price points slowly increasing,” Quick said. He added that “we are blessed to have a wide variety of properties from starter homes to large estate properties available…much different than what is found within local urban rings.”
We are having a “really wonderful year,” Dotson said adding that many properties are selling quickly. She described a listing that went on the market in December of last year and sold for full price in five days. She explained that average days on the market are also shrinking, another sign of increased activity.
Ward reports that his company officially merged with First Dominion Realty, Inc. in Charlottesville on September 1 of this year and will now have many more resources to offer clients in a market that he described as “clicking along.” He explained that like most other places in our area, there is a shortage of inventory and the listings he has are selling.
“Last year was my best since 2007,” Barnett said. Part of the attraction of Scottsville is the home prices. People start looking in Charlottesville but discover they can buy lots more house in Scottsville where, in contrast, he estimates prices are as much as 25 to 33 percent less.
Barnett also described an active commercial market and a “very strong” rental market. He recently had 14 calls on a home he had for rent in Fluvanna County.
Scottsville Home Buyers
“Our buyers range from first time buyers looking for their first home to active retirees looking for their place in the country,” Quick said. He estimates that a significant percent of them have local roots, but more and more they are coming from out of the area.
Barnett sees buyers from Northern Virginia and the northeast, New Jersey and Pennsylvania as well as points south such as North Carolina. He believes Scottsville is especially attractive to retirees and people working from home.
Ward has worked with a number of families that are in Scottsville for some other reason, decide they like the area, walk in the door and decide to buy a house. Good examples are a young couple from Virginia Beach who decided they were tired of all the crowds there, and a “guy on a motorcycle,” who was passing through on his way from Connecticut.
Scottsville offers a lot of opportunities for first time buyers many of whom have grown up in the area and decide they love it too much to leave, Dotson explained. She has worked with a number of them this year who buy in Scottsville to be near family and commute to Charlottesville for jobs.
Fun Activities Bring Visitors and Buyers
Many of Scottsville’s visitors come for the activities there, like tubing on the river, and decide they want to stay.
Ward even wrote a song about the tubing enthusiasts that come to Scottsville, which he enjoys performing at his Thursday night gig at Tavern on the James. Called “Captain of the Inner Tube,” it was written in honor of the tubers who come down from Charlottesville with a cooler full of beer to enjoy a day on the river while snapping selfies of their sunburns. He sees a lot of these fun-loving visitors living, as he does, across from the popular James River Reeling and Rafting.
Another tourist draw is the James River Batteau Festival, celebrated every year in June. Batteaux are flat bottomed boats that regularly stopped in Scottsville in process of hauling people and goods to Richmond at a time before railroads and interstates when water was the most efficient form of transportation. Participants in this event build their own batteaux and recreate part of this journey dressed in period costumes.
Scottsville residents and visitors who like hiking and fishing can enjoy the Van Clief natural area, a 63-acre park right in town that features Scottsville Lake, stocked with trout by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and open to the public. The area is a work in progress with plans for amenities such as hiking trails, and a dock. Volunteers are needed to help with updates such as improving trails and planting native trees and shrubs along one of the creeks. Visit Scottsville.org for details.
The town is also proud of its restaurants, a brewery and its focus on the arts. Barnett was especially enthusiastic about Gallery 527 located on Valley Street in downtown Scottsville that features functional art from local artists. He described it as “really fantastic,” and open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
For those who want a place to read, talk or just hang out, Scottsville has its own coffee and book store, Baines Scottsville, located on Valley Street. An independently owned bookshop based in Appomattox, it features espresso drinks and food such as baked goods, quiches and salads. Wi-Fi is available and Baines is known as a great place to relax and surf the net. It is also “a great place to catch up with the local gossip,” Ward said.
A Rich History
From 1744 until 1761, Scottsville served as Albemarle’s County seat. When the counties of Buckingham and Amherst split off from Albemarle in 1761, the government offices moved to Charlottesville, a more central location given the county’s new boundaries.
In early days Scottsville’s location on the James River made it an important commercial center, and as a drop-off point for agricultural goods moving between Staunton and Richmond, it became one of the largest grain markets in the state and home to many wealthy families. Eventually the James River was joined by the Kanawha canal, a more reliable passageway for moving goods.
Scottsville housed an ammunition storehouse during the Revolutionary War in what was formerly the municipal courthouse. In the Civil War it served the Confederate cause by helping to transport supplies to the battlefields and with 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 1800’s, when river traffic gave way to rail, Scottsville lost what remained of its prominence.
Visitors can explore more local history at the Scottsville Museum located in a historic church built in 1846.
If you love the arts and want to live in a diverse and thriving community close to Charlottesville, talk to your agent about Scottsville. If you are like a lot of 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.