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Train Station, Civil War Morgue, Brothel: The Many Lives of a Virginia Home

by Tianna Mañón

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The train station turned home where Art Garfunkel allegedly dropped acid.

Welcome to UrbanTurf’s Property Week, a week-long series devoted to some of the most intriguing residential properties in the DC area and beyond. From a train station-turned-brothel-turned home to a clever way of making 140 square feet livable, this week is all about cool residences. Enjoy.


Jack and Victoria Dougherty have lived all over the world. But it wasn’t until they moved into their Charlottesville home that they formed an attachment to a house.

And during its many lives, their Virginia residence has been much more than a house.

At various points over the last couple centuries, the property was a train station, a morgue during the Civil War, a Baptist church, and even a brothel. It’s rumored that Art Garfunkel once dropped acid there. As a train station, it became a target by Union soldiers because of its importance to the Confederates; it carried food, goods and even troops back and forth. When it was captured by federal soldiers, they ordered the standing depot destroyed. It was later replaced by a one-story brick structure, which stands as part of the home to this day.

“I think it’s had a life as a saloon as well,” Jack Dougherty told UrbanTurf. “It was carved into a four-family flat around the 1960’s and took on a life as a student flop house for the [University of Virginia]. So allegedly, it was really wild. I think there were all kinds of late 60’s adventures underway here.”

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The home’s main living space.

The Doughertys were living in San Francisco in the early 2000s when they decided that they wanted to move back to the east coast. As writers who can work remotely, they had more freedom in choosing a location but knew they wanted to be close to Washington, DC.

Charlottesville has had a place in Jack Dougherty’s heart since he was taken to a college football game there and remembers falling for the city immediately.

“It was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen,” he said.

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The property had been sitting on the market for quite some time before they gave it a look. Its location on a dead-end street by the train tracks scared off many buyers, and those that weren’t scared off by the location may have found the rundown space daunting.

“The house is a freakshow,” said Dougherty, laughing. “It obeys no conventions about what a house is supposed to be. It is designed for people who are either crazy or have a lot of imagination.”

In 2004, the couple moved into the home, but put off renovations until this past February. The home is essentially two buildings put together: a smaller, square property, which they call the “west wing,” and a taller structure to the east. When they began renovating, they found the original flooring under the downstairs carpeting and restored it. Dougherty said there are still some pockmarks but that they work to add character. The home has incredibly tall 20-foot ceilings, which the couple also restored, and exposed brick runs along the wall in the taller structure. Dougherty said they intend to tackle the upstairs of the home as well.

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Of course, living in an old train depot has its drawbacks. The proximity to the tracks means they hear trains rattling late into the night.

However, they’ve managed to come up with a system for it.

“As the years have gone by, the train has become kind of a lullaby. But we put the guest bedrooms in the front of the house so nobody would stay for more than two days,” Dougherty said, laughing.

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The couple doesn’t intend to leave the home for quite a while, but Dougherty said they know that when they do, it’ll be the first home they’ll miss.

“This place will haunt us until the day we die,” he said. “We have a really passionate relationship with the house.”

* Photos by Adam Wayland Photography.

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A picture that shows the redone tin ceilings above
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A cool lighting fixture in the renovated home
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Train tracks in front of the home

See other articles related to: virginia, urbanturf property week, renovation, historic

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/a_train_station_a_civil_war_morgue_and_a_brothel/10169

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