How would the late George Hawkins, car dealer and the previous owner of Camden Lodge, describe his long-time private home and 'forecourt' as it comes up for sale for the first time in decades?
'Lovely house, exceptional grounds'. 'One-off gem.' 'One careful owner?' 'Any test welcome?'
Hmm. The late Mr Hawkins was a dealer in second-hand cars for many a year, back to the 1970s, and his detailed classified adverts in the then-'Cork Examiner' ended every brief motor's listing with unctuous aphorisms and sales tag lines such as 'Lady driver'; 'Priest owner'; 'Purrs like a cat;' 'Barely run in.'
If true, Camden Lodge was the place where the nation's lady drivers, and elderly priests by the parish-load, sent their treasured, and still-purring, jalopies to find fortunate new and equally caring owners: in car-sales terms, all of George Hawkins' geese were exceptional, long-necked swans.
It's many the car and van got parked up and placed for sale on the gardens and lower grounds of this (genuinely exceptional) Crosshaven property, with his random foreshore and forecourt fleet best viewed in its entirety, when passing by, by boat, at this entrance point to Crosshaven and the Owenabue estuary.
In Camden Lodge's latter years, some of Mr Hawkins unsold stock might have near-rusted to the spot, such was the accumulation of vehicles. When it came time in recent months to prepare the century-old residential property for sale, a veteran caravan emerged unexpectedly from the overgrowth: the place was indeed in some 'state of chassis.'
But, now, as the early 1900s'-built Camden Lodge itself comes to market with agents Cohalan Downing, it's in poor enough internal order; it wouldn't yet pass the equivalent of the NCT, and its BER is a 'G'.
Superficially, at least it's more 'unpretty' duckling in its first impressions than the graceful swan it surely deserves once more to become.
Its considerable 0.8 acre of gardens have just been hacked back from a jungle-like overgrowth to show just how exceptional this Crosshaven, Point Road site with its 200' frontage to Cork Harbour truly is.
Even apart from the setting, a scenic five minute walk past the boatyard and Crosshaven village and facing Currabinny woods over the water, the 'mature' site very much has its charm-in-waiting, sloping down from the narrow public road, right to the water's edge.
Retained trees of merit include a century-old and glistening monkey puzzle, a large chestnut and mature ash tree, along with 'lesser' pines and maples, and flowering shrubs, and the lawned side garden looks like it once might have held a tennis court, or a croquet lawn, and a rickety wooden gate gives foreshore access, a rare asset and a key selling point surely for this property as it floats on the market.
Right alongside, a more modern home, a split-level well-kept family home on a far narrower site called Fernbank, with its own boat slip into Cork harbour, is currently for sale, guiding €850,000 via Sherry FitzGerald O'Donovan, who even more recently launched the architect-designed home called Sundance right by Camden Fort at €750,000, with a sweep of harbour views, but without the all-important water frontage.
What of Camden Lodge itself, then. It's a distinctive and almost modest-sized Edwardian villa, and runs to about 1,600 sq ft, with Cork harbour, lofty wind turbine, Cobh and Currabinny views framed by original, deep, ground floor bay windows and by its jaunty, first floor dormers.
It fits in two nicely-sized front reception rooms, with high ceilings and one has a nice, plain white marble fireplace, and sealed up double doors to a rear sitting room.
There's not a kitchen, as such, but there's an old range cooker in the kitchenette by the full-width (say, 38' by 7') south facing rear lean-to, with flimsy corrugated plastic roofing, and all three first floor bedrooms (all doubles) have cast iron fireplaces.
It all needs work, though, and the upside is it's of a size that's manageable, and the wide side allows for a modern extension to be grafted on readily enough: it will be an architect's dream commission.
Auctioneer Malcolm Tyrrell of Cohalan Downing guides Camden Lodge at a substantial enough €645,000, and reckons it will turn out to be quite the prized purchase for a family who'll relish seaside living in Crosshaven for years to come.
Eschewing the late owner Mr Hawkins's one-liners, Mr Tyrrell says it's “in need of complete modernisation and refurbishment. But, it offers a huge opportunity to develop the obvious potential and to create something very special on what is probably the best site on the Point Road.”
VERDICT: Vroom to improve.