Local residents Doug Lowe and Todd Reeder purchased the 5+-acre Cook homeplace at 5658 St. George Ave. in 2017, after the death of long-time owner Shirley McCauley Cook. “We’re not developers or high pressure sales people—this just kind of happened,” said Lowe, who grew up in Batesville and owned Artisan Construction in Charlottesville for over 20 years. He now works with Sagebuild Consulting to advise developers.
“We were looking for buildable lots for ourselves, and were drawn to the idea of a rural setting close to downtown.” Reeder’s nephew, McCoy Noya, first noticed the property on the market, and when long-time friends Reeder and Lowe heard about it, they formed St. George Properties, LLC to acquire it. Reeder works for Ferguson Enterprises, who provide plumbing, culverts, and piping for construction projects.
“The Cook sisters wanted to sell it as a whole package,” Lowe explained. “We did extensive research with the County and were able to prove that the property was in fact already deeded as seven lots.” So no new permitting was required. Noya, as well as the pastor of the recently formed Anglican Church of the Holy Cross, will be two of the new residents.
The St. George Properties website describes the mini-development as “located in a quiet and established neighborhood…within walking distance of downtown Crozet [with] beautiful mountain views.” The property extends back to Parrot Creek and Crozet Elementary School. Lowe and Reeder plan to build homes on one-acre lots at the back of the property, with a shared driveway off Crozet Avenue. Due to the driveway’s closeness to the creek, the county required a mitigation plan involving the planting of 116 trees. Four ½-acre and one ¼-acre lots are located along St. George Ave. extended. Four of these sold by word of mouth, without ever being listed; only the fifth lot is still available. Construction is already underway on two of the houses, and all are expected to be complete within the next year.
Lynwood and Shirley McCauley Cook
Until her death in 2016 at age 83, Shirley Cook and her husband Lynwood (who passed in 2008) had lived on the property for over 50 years with their five daughters, most of whom still live in the area, and were well known in Crozet. Born a McCauley, Shirley was raised in the big yellow farmhouse on the corner of St. George Ave. and McCauley St., which was named for her family. “That was probably the only house in the neighborhood back then,” explained Tammy Cook Snow, “except for the Old Ballard house at the end of the dirt road” east of St. George Ave. extended.
Shirley’s parents, Vivian and Virginia McCauley—known as Pawpaw and Mamaw to the family—founded the Modern Barber Shop (next to the Whistlestop Grill) in 1933, which was later run by Shirley’s brother Pete, and is still owned by his daughter, Lisa McCauley Miller. Shirley graduated from Crozet High School (formerly located on the west end of St. George Ave.), married Lynwood Cook, and bought this property from the Waylands in 1960 (the whole neighborhood between St. George and Wayland St. is known as Wayland Park). There, in the middle of the 5+ acres, they built the gracious house in which Tammy and her four sisters grew up, surrounded by lilacs and magnolias, where the kids could run and play all the way down to the creek. The house was demolished earlier this year. “There is a lot of love on that property,” Tammy said.
Lynwood, who grew up in Greenwood as one of ten children, graduated from Greenwood School and worked for DuPont in Waynesboro from the age of 16 until his retirement. He served in World War II and was a lifetime member of the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department. Shirley, who worked for Acme Visible Records, was a member of the Lions Club and sang soprano in the Crozet Baptist Church choir for over 50 years. She also babysat for just about every child in Crozet. “Mom and Dad just loved kids. She babysat hundreds of kids, both residents and visitors. There were always tons of kids running around—I grew up thinking I had 13 brothers and sisters, and was really disappointed when I found out they were other people’s kids!” said Tammy. “One of my 3-year-old cousins once called her Fat Shirley. That affectionate nickname stuck, and from then on, everyone called her that.”
Custom builders Lambert and Lane have been contracted to build three of the four houses, with Peak Builders slated to build the fourth. A mixture of one- and two-story houses is planned. There will not be an HOA, but Lowe and Reeder maintain architectural control per the sales contracts. All the houses will have porches, as well as garages on the left side. The exteriors will be hardiplank, brick, or stone (not vinyl), but “we’re open to various styles of architecture,” Lowe explained. “They won’t be cookie cutter. We only want to avoid ‘pink house syndrome.’”
The houses will be set back approximately 50 feet from the street, so that they line up with existing houses on the block, and power cables will be buried underground. “We simply want to finish the street as it was probably originally planned,” Lowe explained. The project should be finished within the year.