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Some Assembly Required

When is a house an Ikea set?

In the case of Turkey Run, a two-bedroom residence built around 1836 in Midlothian, the transformation occurred for preservation. Now, the house needs a home.

Jeffrey O’Dell’s “Chesterfield County Historic Sites and Structures” details that James Hill Spears, involved with the Midlothian coal mining industry, lived in the house until his 1863 death. The estate passed to his widow, Jane, and two sons.

The house went through various hands and picked up the name of the surrounding farm, Turkey Run. In 1959, the residence near the intersection of Old Hundred and Otterdale roads became home to revered Chesterfield educator Virginia Justis and her husband, Robert A. Justis III.

When the beloved Midlothian High School biology teacher died in 2015, family heirs sold the house and remaining 82 acres to the county, which built a new elementary school on the property. County officials declared the house a nuisance that had to go.

A group of preservationists and former pupils of Virginia Justis banded together. Jane Wilson, once a student of “Aunt Ginny,” was among them.

“She was the kind of teacher who knew how to captivate a classroom,” recalls Wilson, who lived at Turkey Run briefly as a child. “We had really hoped to work with the county to preserve it at the location, but it was their desire not to do that.”

The Save the Justis House Committee and Preservation Virginia partnered to move the house so it could become the centerpiece of a new museum.

In June 2021, Virginia Masonry Restoration began dismantling Turkey Run. Every floorboard and each brick received a catalog number for eventual reassembly. A suitable site, however, proved elusive. Today, the house remains in pieces in storage.

Realtor Jennie Dotts, who specializes in antique properties, accepted the mission to find a buyer for what she refers to as a unique “kit house.”

“You could build a basement for the house and expose the hand-hewn floor beams, or build a rear addition,” she says.

The 1,760-square-foot house is listed at $199,000, but the price doesn’t include assembly.

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