Christine Major’s home: No Maintenance, Single Family Living
“I waited a long time for that neighborhood to develop!” says Christine Major about Martin’s Grant at Old Gun, a small planned community in the rolling hills of the Southside of the city of Richmond. Her wait began in 2002, when she was looking to downsize from her 4-bedroom Richmond home to a free-standing house with the low-maintenance and amenities of a condo. At that time, there weren’t many of those available in Richmond, so when she heard that a 42-home, zero-lot-line and maintenance-free community was being planned for fallow farmland on historic Old Gun Road, she quickly checked it out.
“I took walks around the property, which was then just an old farmhouse and a pond,” she says. “And when the project finally started nearly two years later, I selected my lot by peering over the berm because there were no streets; it was just all mud and construction.”
Christine’s perseverance paid off: She and her husband, Calvin, ended up with a prime, corner lot that offers great privacy, even with the zero-lot-line design. They became the first to contract for a home in the new community being designed and built by developer D. O. Allen, and in 2004 moved into their brick, one-level home with 2-car garage.
While Christine was thrilled with the move, Calvin, then a retired attorney, was initially reluctant. “I felt we needed to downsize, but he didn’t really care to move,” Christine notes. “But, on our first day in the house, he was sitting at the breakfast table and looked out and saw someone cutting his grass. He looked at me and said, ‘Oh, I think I’m gonna like it here.’ And it really was a good move for us.”
In fact, Martin’s Grant residents have to do virtually no maintenance. In addition to mowing/mulching/weeding/fertilizing/watering the common spaces and private yards, the HOA staff cleans gutters, does exterior painting, removes snow and leaves, and even washes the exteriors of home windows. “We’re responsible for our own roofs, but otherwise the association takes care of everything,” Christine explains.
Although the house has only two bedrooms, it is spacious, with a large foyer, formal living and dining rooms, an eat-in kitchen open to a family room with gas fireplace, a separate den, and a sunroom overlooking a small yard lined by mature trees. Features include hardwood floors, a tray ceiling, wainscoting, columns, crown molding, and French doors. There is an easy-access, unfinished second floor with more than 1,000 square feet, now used for storage but able to be finished to add more rooms.
Windows are tall, filling the house with natural light despite the proximity of neighbors’ homes. “I really did not want to look out my windows at someone else’s wall,” Christine says. “And there’s only one window, in our guest bedroom, which does that. The rest all look out at green space or down the street. Plus, I have so much privacy in the back yard. I think my lot is probably one of the best in the neighborhood.”
“I enjoy sitting at my breakfast table with my coffee, reading and looking down the street. We have a lot of red bud trees and it’s really very pretty,” she adds. “I also like my sunroom that looks over our back yard and small patio. We have deer and a fox and a family of raccoons. One day recently a mother deer had her two little baby fawns, and the mother deer was looking in the window right at me. I enjoy that a lot.”
Memories of Family Celebrations. With her home built for entertaining, Christine has hosted numerous family celebrations for her three children, seven grandchildren, and four great grandchildren, including family meals for 18. She loves the kitchen island for serving buffet style or just chatting with guests while she cooks. “That island is great when I cook a meal. It separates people from the kitchen areas, so they can be close and talk but not be all over my space in the kitchen.”
One of her favorite celebrations has been home Easter Egg hunts. “I would put money, lottery tickets and numbers into Easter eggs; the numbers were for the order of choosing gifts off a gift table. The adult children would be shoving the kids to get the best eggs,” Christine recalls, laughing. “I had to quit putting change in the eggs because they would shake them, realize there were only coins, and then put them back. They wanted the paper!”
Small Town Neighborhood. “We have just 42 houses and it’s sort of like a small town where you know everybody,” says Christine, noting that the community has all ages, including families, downsizers and empty nesters. Residents have a very active social committee that organizes activities ranging from Christmas parties, gift exchanges, and Thanksgiving feasts, to tailgates, luaus, and ice cream socials. Most activities are at the Old Gun Club, the circa 1870 farmhouse that was renovated to become the community’s social center. Christine’s favorite neighborhood functions have been decorating the clubhouse Christmas tree and playing the Christmas gift exchange game. The clubhouse also houses a pool table and a bar, along with card tables for daytime and evening bridge groups. Tables and chairs are set outside around the clubhouse’s outdoor fireplace, and many residents enjoy the neighborhood’s walking trails and small pond.
Christine describes her neighbors as very friendly, welcoming, and supportive. When Calvin died in 2010, neighbors surrounded Christine with meals and emotional support. “My kids kept saying they were so glad I was here because my neighbors were incredible; every single one of them did something meaningful. And, recently a neighbor’s daughter had cancer and moved in with them, and again everyone was bringing meals and being supportive.”
Neighbors keep in touch through a community email and via a neighborhood newspaper, Magnolia, which is available both online and in hard copy.
A Place with a History. “Another thing I like is that we have an actual history beyond just a neighborhood,” Christine notes. She recalls when she missed a social committee meeting and was later told she had been voted the neighborhood historian. “But I really got into it,” she says. “I did a lot of research and interviewed people and wrote a little history of the area.”
Christine’s research revealed that the land had been a grant from King George to a French Huguenot refugee named John Martin in 1715. She even unearthed the names of the ships the Huguenots had used to escape religious persecution. Part of the land later became a working farm for the Cosby family; a few years ago, the family celebrated the 100th anniversary of their ancestor buying the farm. “Early on, when we moved in, a Cosby family member came over to the clubhouse and gave a talk on the history of the property itself,” Christine recalls.
Christine recorded her history research in a scrapbook that is located in the clubhouse. It includes a copy of the grant and pictures of the clubhouse when it was still the Cosby family home.
Moving On. Christine’s next home is a retirement community. She asked John “Mr. Williamsburg” Womeldorf to help sell her home after her son-in-law introduced them. “After talking to him, I could see that he sounded innovative and very good, so we went with him,” Christine says. John works with Liz Moore and Associates with offices in Richmond, Williamsburg and Newport News. He has partnered with Meg Clark in the Richmond office which happens to be around the corner from Martins Grant.
What I Love About This Home.
Martin’s Grant homes are zero-lot-line, so neighbors are very close. But this home is located on a premium corner lot that gives backyard privacy, with mature trees along the back property line. In fact, only one window–in the guest bedroom—faces a neighbor’s wall; all the others look out onto peaceful green space or a pleasant neighborhood view. Windows are floor-to-ceiling, so the house gets lots of natural light.
This home is truly maintenance free. The HOA not only takes care of all aspects of yard work but even cleans the gutters and washes the outside of the windows. (You can arrange to have them also do the insides for a fee.) This gives extra free time to check out the numerous neighborhood activities. A very active social committee plans many parties (luaus, tailgates, Thanksgiving feasts, etc.) and activities (example: day and evening bridge clubs), most held in the former old farmhouse, now converted into a lovely neighborhood clubhouse. The community of 42 homes feels like a small town where everyone knows and supports their neighbors, who stay in touch partly through a neighborhood email list and a community newsletter.
Although this home is only two bedrooms, it is sunny and open, with tons of space for entertaining: formal living and dining rooms plus family room plus den plus sunroom. Huge unfinished space on second floor is used for storage now but could be converted to more finished rooms.
Martins Grant Neighborhood Photos/ Amenities
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This post was authored by local resident and REALTOR, John Womeldorf. John is known around town as Mr. Williamsburg, for both his extensive knowledge of the Williamsburg/ Hampton Roads/ Richmond VA area and his expertise helping buyers and sellers in the local real estate market.
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