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When Dave Arnold heads home after a day of paddling on West Virginia’s New River, he doesn’t really leave the river--his view just changes. Dave, a founding partner of Class VI River Runners, actually lives right on the edge of the New River Gorge.

This house--and Dave and his family--couldn’t have a more appropriate location. Situated on 10 acres down a country road and 900 feet virtually straight up a wall of rock from the New River, the house (like the river) has many stories to tell. And Dave serves as its voice.

A House with History

“The purchase of the house is a story in itself and I have many more that I enjoy sharing with houseguests,” says Dave, who was a West Virginia rafting pioneer almost 30 years ago and is now considered a bearded river sage. “When we bought this house, the seller said it was truly meant to be. He was right.”

Dave and Peggy Arnold bought the house from Jack and Vicki Eades back in 1983. Jack had decided to head off to seminary school in Lynchburg, Virginia, and contacted the Arnolds after Peggy half-jokingly mentioned they’d love to buy their well-situated log home if they ever decided to sell. Jack later told the Arnolds he’d been looking for a sign about whether or not to sell when he pulled up to his house and a tree limb fell on the hood of his car.

Incredibly, each couple wrote down their hoped-for price on a piece of paper and were only $3,000 apart. So, they split the difference and the unique real estate deal was done.

“Jack and Vickie obviously loved this home and we promised them that they could return for a visit anytime they wished,” says Dave. “In fact, they even held a wedding rehearsal here for their daughter here several years after we’d bought the original log house.”

A “Traditional” Addition

The original 2,800 square-foot house was built in 1974 and Jack did most of the work on the two-bedroom house himself. It was a fairly typical log house construction of that period (though the company that provided the logs and plans no longer exists). Thus, when it came time in 2001 for the Arnolds to pursue their phenomenal 2,500 square-foot addition (including another bedroom and expanded loft space), it wasn’t as simple as buying some more logs and adding space.

“There’s an ambiance to a log home that you can’t get with any other form of architecture,” says Dave. “With the addition, we wanted to keep that woodsy feel without visitors knowing that there was actually an original smaller house.”

The Arnolds’ architect Bahlmann Abbot (go to www.BlueRidgeCountry.com for more on him), who also happened to be a river guide on Class VI’s very first commercial rafting trip in 1978, didn’t try to simply “match” the earlier structure. Instead, he designed a timber frame addition (with local hemlock siding) that he tied back into the original kitchen with non-structural timber framing. All-wood mortice and tendon joinery techniques, including some dating to Europe in the 1500s, were used (Dave quips they didn’t have a Home Depot they could run to for nails back then).

“The timber framing actually evolved because we‘d completed similar construction at Class VI‘s headquarters,” says Bahlmann. “We wanted to show the craft of the house,” Bahlmann continues. “The was really important to the Arnolds.”

“It really all ties in now,” says Dave, while also praising the work of local builder Greg Kump, who obviously embraced the unique project as well. “We renovated the kitchen in 2005 and, except for maybe expanding our deck overlooking the New River Gorge, we’re done.”

That expansive deck with equally expansive views already comes within eight inches of the Gorge’s edge.

“Dave wants to cantilever a deck out over the Gorge, but I draw the line there,” jokes Peggy. “Seriously, it’s hard to top seeing clouds move below you through the Gorge or to see the backs of hawks gliding downriver. It truly feels like heaven.”

Today, the comfortably casual home is filled with the work of local artisans. The fireplace screen and chandelier were made by a local blacksmith, Jeff Fetty, while many paintings and fine art photography prints grace the walls. Of course, much of the Arnolds’ art depicts the New River and other West Virginia scenes.

Great Guests

Both before and after the addition, the Arnolds became known for their hospitality, with many memorable dinners, receptions, and lots of houseguests crossing their threshold.

“We see the house and the view as a gift and like to share it,” says Dave. Sharing that space was so important that Peggy twice asked Bahlmann for “two more feet,” leading to a nickname for Peggy, “Two-foot” that Bahlmann still uses today.

Along with hosting more river guides than Peggy may care to count, guests of the Arnolds have included former West Virginia governor Gaston Caperton; a princess from Thailand (including her entire entourage; NPR’s Noah Adams (who eventually wrote a book about the New River); the staffs of varied magazines like Field & Stream, Vanity Fair, and Popular Mechanics; many performers from West Virginia’s Mountain Stage; and the actress Jennifer Garner.

Visiting the Gorge

If you can’t score an invitation to the Arnolds’ great house, you can enjoy the vibe by visiting Smokey’s on the Gorge or staying in one of the new luxury cabins at Class VI River Runners.

Smokey’s , Class VI’s popular restaurant, is a timber frame building just like the Arnolds’ addition. There’s also a deck with great New River Gorge views that are quite similar to that seen from the Arnolds’ deck.

Nearby, Class VI’s Cabins on the Gorge (currently eight, with more to come) feature the same “log home” ambiance (and loft living) found at the Arnolds’ house (albeit in miniature form). Dave Arnold says Class VI’s next set of cabins will have even more similarities in architecture and style with their house.

For more information: www.class-vi.com.