Watch: Classic home in Blackrock, Cork, on market for €1.5m
Saturday, March 11, 2017
Tommy Barker visits an expansive 1920s house with a one-acre garden on Cork’s salubrious Blackrock Road.
Crab Lane, Blackrock Road, Cork City €1.5 million
Size: 290 sq m (3,000 sq ft)
Best Feature: Class
There’s a certain magic to Montana, a detached 1920s home new to market on an equally magic one acre of gardens, along Cork city’s Blackrock Road, freshly up for sale with estate agent Timothy Sullivan at a guide of €1.5 million.
Montana is discreetly hidden away in its private demesne just off Crab Lane, where Mr Sullivan himself grew up and had gone to the local Crab Lane National School at Montana’s southern boundary.
He was even lucky enough to be able to play in the gardens here with the neighbourhood kids, so he knows all the hiding places, and recalls where the tennis court and soccer pitch were, as among its other family-friendly amenities.
Now, the goal is to hand it on to another appreciative set of occupants: game on.
By coincidence of timing, Montana is one of two Blackrock Road detached homes newly up for sale in the €1 million-plus category this month.
The other is the late Fine Gael TD and ex-Government Minister Peter and Margaret Barry’s family home, Sherwood near Menloe Gardens near Blackrock village, which has been launched with a very low profile, guiding €1.3 million via agent John D Sullivan.
The very comfortable mid-1900s Sherwood has four bedrooms, and 2,750 sq ft of space, now on gardens of 0.3 of an acre after family members previously acquired sites to its rear.
Despite there being €200,000 in the price difference between them, it’s very likely that Montana (€1.5m) and Sherwood (€1.3m) will between them get a reasonable cross-over of viewers looking for exemplary homes for family rearing in the erstwhile Blackrock catchment.
Blackrock has recent form in the €1-2m price league: both are prizes, homes for life if buyers so wish, for decades if not generations.
Montana comes for to market as an executor sale, and was the family home of the late Kevin Callaghan ‘Cal’ Condon, a plastic surgery specialist who was born 90 years ago and who moved back to Cork from a spell in Tralee in the early 1970s.
He and his wife Margaret (who passed away in May of last year) had three sons, and subsequently grandchildren, who all got to savour the joys of the wide, open spaces of Cork’s Montana which the couple had acquired in 1973.
All the while since, it’s been a cherished and well-tended four-bedroomed ever-accommodating home, made in the 1920s of good stuff, with polished brasses, excellent fireplaces and fine features.
It’s standing proud still too, sunning its face and understated facade (currently, its front appearance is its most underwhelming feature, but wait’ til it’s extended and enhanced, post-purchase) with a direct south aspect, surrounded by the bounty of its acre and gardens which must be its ultimate trump card.
An acre? On or just off the Blackrock Road? Wow.
The so-private grounds include a glasshouse, an orchard with pear, plum, and apple trees, plus reminders of fruit bushes deserving reinstatement, former tennis court, lawns, and some feature trees at the boundaries, including weeping willow, yews, and a dense thicket of laurel, almost everglade-like in its overgrowth and myriad roots and stems (see pic, p19).
It’s enough to fuel the imagination of any child, and deep within its canopy are swings and things to climb, colonise and more than enough supporting-role evergreen contenders for treehouse platforms.
It’s a wonderland in the wings and all-awaiting young explorers.
The proximity of Crab Lane school means plenty of youthful ‘extras’ and buddies too, who’d be willing to drop in to Montana for a quick lunch-break game of soccer, tennis or hide and seek.
When the Examiner visited, a now-adult Condon grandson who enjoyed just such simple pleasures recalled being able to call over to say Hi to the grandfolks, get a bit of lunch, a treat, and the struggles to go back to school after the visit.
Crab Lane school has a plaque on its front wall announcing its construction in 1915 (but it was around in other guises pre 1900) and Montana’s deeds date to the early 1920s so, while it has the feel of a proper period home, it’s of a more recent construction.
Heck, even though it’s not even 100 years old yet, it’s one of the older houses on, along and off Crab Lane, reckons the locally-savvy auctioneer Tim Sullivan.
For its next owners, Montana is accessible for many ages: it’s within easy reach of a range of schools and sport facilties, the city centre’s a manageable trot on foot, and the link road is exactly a mile away, via the Boreenmanna Road end of Crab Lane.
Ashton Comprehensive school with its new array of facilties post extension is on the main pedestrian way to town, at the city end of the Blackrock Road and, surprisingly, UCC is less than three miles distant, underlining the relative compactness of Cork’s older suburbs on the east-west axis.
What of the house? Montana doesn’t have an expansive external grandeur setting an immediate tone; it’s as bit more of a slow burn and very much the sum of its parts — quality interiors, with an array of mature garden options and seasonal charm.
In fact, with its symmetrical, twin bay facade and apex front bay gables and central doorway, this two-storey stolid build is probably only as wide at it’s tall, and internally it stretches back deep within, further than it is wide most probably.
It could take matching, or even asymmetrical, wings either side, at single or two storey levels, and inflate to be quite the swell property, yet still have loads of external space left over to enjoy and colonise.
Already, it has two fine reception rooms left and right of the entrance hall, each with fireplaces, coved ceilings and bay windows facing south over the gardens.
The 19’ by 14’ dining room, to the east, has a side door with ornate architrave to a simple older-era glasshouse, used for garden plant propagation in years gone by and is one of the first glimpses you get of the house itself, once past its high-hedged approach avenue.
It’s in a precious spot, likely to hold a slightly more ambitious enclosed space for its next growing family.
Across the hall is an even better room, the 22’ by 14’ drawing room, with wider, grander veined marble fireplace throwing out the heat under a copper canopy.
Here, the ceiling plasterwork is more ornate, and a side door to the west leads straight into a 1980s-added wood-sheet roofed sun-room, double glazed on all three external side for south, west and north views.
It’s right by a very sheltered west-aspected terrace by the orchards (and close to another glasshouse) and for anyone into gardens, birdlife or watching children playing outdoors, it’s possibly Montana’s most endearing room. For now.
Anyone coming here to view, and to buy to keep for the long-term, and who has a few quid to spend, will want to make their own mark here, and adding a new open kitchen/living/dining wing on the
house’s west flank will be a no-brainer.
Right now, the current kitchen’s just about 12’ square, and is a bit old-school, and also at the back off a rear hall is a 14’ by 12’ TV room/family room, small study, wine store/study (ne’er the twain shall meet) and guest WC, next to a wet-room/shower.
Back via the original encaustic-tiled hall’s 25’ long spine, the pitch-pine stairs beckons onwards and upwards to the next floor, where what was originally a five-bedroomed floor has now been reduced to four bedrooms, main bathroom and enlarged guest bathroom (this section had been bed no 5).
The carpeted landing is wide and bright and high-ceilinged, and could make for a library/seated reading area into the bargain, although at present one side holds a long wall of louvered storage presses which sort of encroaches visually on its proportion.
The two best bedrooms are close to an even match one for the other, each to the front with square bay windows with side panes, and each window easily holds a vanity table.
One bedroom has an en suite with shower, and the other across the landing has secondary Jack‘n’Jill-style access to the main family bathroom with another shower.
It’s a good compromise, this dual access to the loo, and is easily achievable when you’ve a bathroom sized such as this 14’ by 9’ room.
The overall condition of this c 1920s robust build appears excellent; it has gas central heating and inoffensive double-glazing which does the role expected of it, even if not in a particularly architectural manner.
While anyone buying will want to make changes (a posh kitchen’s certainly in the wings?) it could well be a sensible option to move in first, to live in the house for a while and to let it grow on you before making any grandiose extension or upgrade plans.
Its core rooms are excellent as they stand, so really, it’s a case of making alterations slowly, sensitively, and for the long haul.
It (and its gardens) will certain grow on its next, fortunate owners who may even find it needs very little extra indeed, once they rightly get its measure. After all, it did just fine service to its last occupants, over the last 45 years.
VERDICT: In prime Cork suburban terms, Crab Lane’s Montana is wide-open prairie territory indeed.