If you’re in the market for a home with a spectacular view, Jim and Joan Ferguson may have the ideal place for you.
By virtue of its location, their place is one of the more eyeballed residences around, and the retired Floyd County couple recently put it up for sale.
Their two-story, 4,800-square-foot brick home hangs off of Bent Mountain along U.S. 221. It’s on the left at the final rightward sharp curve just before you reach the top of the mountain.
Oh my, what a view. I’m hardly an expert but I’d peg that alone as worth $1 million or so.
The Fergusons are offering both it and the house for $419,000, for sale by owner. That’s certainly not chump change but still seems like a deal, provided you have the money and no fear of heights.
The house dates back at least to the 1950s, perhaps earlier, when it was a gift and craft shop, part of a small tourist complex that stretched across U.S. 221, operated by E.L. and J.M. Glover.
Called the Roanoke Lookout Motor Lodge and Gift Shop, it was easily recognizable by a huge and kitschy roadside architecture sign that incorporated a large statue of a Native American, posed kneeling, who seemed to be peering into the valley below.
The gift shop, which advertised mountain crafts, souvenirs, gifts and tourist information, was in the structure the Fergusons now own.
A small restaurant may have been there, too, Jim Ferguson said. Across the highway and up above 221 were a three or four small rental rooms for travelers.
The gift shop was out of business by the late 1950s, though. Around 1958 a businessman named Frank Beamer (he was no close relation to the coach) bought the gift shop as his home.
The next year, he married Ann Boswell, of Roanoke, whose last name now is Breslin. They lived there until 1961, she said, then moved out of town when Beamer was transferred.
“It was a fun place to live — at the time I had no children,” said Breslin, who now lives in South Roanoke. “We used to invite people over. We’d tell them, bring your sweaters, because it was cool up there.”
The Beamers moved back to town a few years later, but by then they’d had their first child and because of that she didn’t want to live there.
Frank Beamer died a handful of years later in an airplane crash, and Breslin later remarried.
It’s unclear how many times the property changed hands between 1961 and the mid 1990s. It was 1995 when I got my first glimpse of the house, and by then it appeared to be in severe disrepair.
It looked like any strong wind — or a downhill tractor trailer that had lost its brakes on that sharp bend — could send the house crashing down Bent Mountain’s steep north-side slope.
The Fergusons lived for 38 years in a house just off 221 at the base of the mountain. They bought the mountaintop property in 1997 or 1998 — they can’t quite remember which year. By then it had been vacant for seven years. The owners lived in Florida.
“It was just sitting here, a big mess,” Joan Ferguson said.
Jim Ferguson, now 70, was a contractor who built custom homes. His initial idea was to demolish the old house and build a new one. But because the setback regulations had changed by then, Ferguson learned that he’d have build an all-new house further back from the highway, and there there was no room to do that.
So they rebuilt it, room by room and piece by piece, over two years, adding a 2-story, 1,800-square foot addition on the rear, a light brick exterior and a brick wall out front.
“Jim and I did most of it ourselves,” Joan Ferguson said. “We had a cousin who came and helped us out a bit, but we did it all, mostly.”
The house now sports a modern kitchen, a home theater, a 30-foot by 30-foot rec room, 3 full baths and 3 bedrooms, including a 900-square-foot master bedroom suite.
Of course, there are huge picture windows on both upper and lower slope-side walls, for that amazing view.
It even has a small hiding room, accessible only through a secret latch hidden in a built-in bookcase, like something out of the movies.
Ferguson figures he’s got about $400,000 invested in the place, not counting his own labor rebuilding it.
The couple moved out last fall. Their four children are grown, married and have their own children.
“Really we’d like to stay here, but it’s too big for the two of us,” Jim Ferguson told me. “If [the market was] great, I might be able to get $600,000 for it.”
I’m sure they’re already missing that extraordinary view.
“You can see the center of downtown when it’s not smoggy like that,” Jim Ferguson said, pointing to toward Roanoke Monday morning.
Interested? You can call them at (540) 520-1009.