Lakefront pioneer homestead for sale
by Staff Writer
by Lynda Edwards
CORNELIUS – Ginger Childress dreaded nightfall when she first drove home through the now-posh Peninsula neighborhood.
She remembers Jetton was just a spooky, one-lane road twisting past vineyards populated by nothing but gnarly grapevines, an eerie sight in the dusk. Then she had to plunge her car down a gravel road – lit only by moonlight – through forest to get to 19617 Bustle Road in Cornelius.
“Twilight Zone” and Alfred Hitchcock plots about women in dangerous, deserted houses rushed through her mind.
“I was absolutely terrified, just 19 years old, and my husband was working the night shift in downtown Charlotte,” Childress said. “My parents lived in Charlotte at that time. I was the first resident in the Peninsula area, alone in the middle of nowhere.”
Childress and her first husband lived in her parents’ Bustle Road home at the time. She now lives next door with her second husband, Jimmy Childress, at 19601 Bustle Road.
Childress’ mother bought three large tracts of land on a deep inlet of Lake Norman’s shore from Bustle Road’s namesake, a farmer who attended her church. It was 1965 and her mom, a hair stylist, paid $1,000 for each tract. For the price, the farmer threw in the two strips of land facing her tracts across from the inlet on the opposite shore. Today, a thin veil of trees screens those strips from the Peninsula’s golf course and Bustle Road is crowded with a mix of ranch homes and elegant mansions.
Childress is selling her parents’ modest two-story, two-bedroom, one-bathroom house that once frightened her for $350,000. The waterfront home is about 2,000 square feet and sits on more than a half-acre.
Childress’ hair-stylist parents and their friends built the house in 1967. Her mother never went to college but had a talent for buying and profitably selling several tracts – many still dotted with crumbling sharecropper shacks – around the newly created Lake Norman. The house has been empty since Childress’ mother died and her father moved to a retirement home.
With the tax value at $427,000, the house is a fixer upper. The exterior white paint is weather-beaten, and the upstairs balcony has a rickety metal rail that begs to be replaced.
But the location is magical. The back door is a few steps from the water, much closer to the lake than current homeowners are allowed to build. The yard has a boat slip, rose bushes and towering pine trees. The inlet is about a third of a mile from the lake’s main channel. Duke Energy has approved construction of a dock up to 930 square feet.
“It’s common for new owners to renovate a house like this one, either convert it into a boat house or keep the shell of this house and build a palace over it,” real estate agent Tim Paladino said.
A new owner could not legally tear down the house and build a new one so close to the shore, Paladino said, “But they could tear the house down and build a completely new, bigger, grander house closer to the road.”
One Bustle neighbor transformed a similar ranch house into a guest cottage with a glass wall facing the lake.
“A ranch house on the lake could sell for $1 million, while a nearly identical house directly across the street away without waterfront might easily sell for $500,000,” Paladino said after reviewing prices in neighborhoods that are a combination of lake pioneers and wealthy newcomers.
But the recession has affected the rapidity of sales. Childress put the house on the market a year ago.
Childress’ brother, Donald Bowen, built a house on the tract next door at 19609 Bustle Road. Neighbors nicknamed her family “the Cartrights” after the Bonanza TV show father and sons who lived together for decades.
What was it like to live so cozily with family members?
“Terrible!” Childress said. “After my divorce, I would come home in the evening and soon as I turned on my kitchen light, my phone would ring and my mother or brother would want to know where I had been. When you live this close, family gets on your nerves. Plus, my brother and I had very different personalities. I worry constantly about everything being just right. Jimmy jokes that his role model is (‘Married with Children’ slacker) Al Bundy. It was tough but we made it work.”
The family’s attorney told Childress she should work three jobs if necessary to hang on to her home because the land value would go up and up. He was right. Childress has loved the neighborhood through all its incarnations, even when the Peninsula sprouted palatial French villas and Gothic mansions.
“There are all types of interesting people over there – NASCAR drivers, athletes, airline pilots,” she said. “When the country club opened, they told us we were welcome to play on the golf course but I just didn’t have the knack.”
Childress might soon be selling her own lakefront home, which is shaded by pink azaleas, white dogwood and pine trees, because of frail health.
“Doctors have held my beating heart in their hands three times now,” she said. “I want to move to Raleigh to be near my grandchildren.”