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ROW HOUSE SHINES: Azalea Home Tour puts spotlight on historic renovation

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The Historic Wilmington Foundation Home Tour is back for the 70th annual Azalea Fest week of events and activities!

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Amelie Ferimer broke all her rules for buying a house when she first walked into the historic Carl W. Polvogt Row House. She looked at the realtor and gushed. “I want to buy this house, right now!”


HAPPY WALLS: The Ferimers renovated their row house on McRae, including the dining area. Photo by Tom Dorgan

The realtor suggested Amelie’s husband Bill see the house first. Yet, Amelie reassured he would love it, too. Eighteen months later he still does, and Amelie is the project manager for all nine row houses in the 200 block of McRae Street.

Measuring approximately 1,140 square feet apiece, each row house is separated by a 13-inch wall. There is an open porch on the front, and the Ferimers’ festooned the property with roses, dianthus, a miniature Japanese maple, pansies, a water fountain planter, and the vivid ranunculus perennial or Persian buttercup in shades of bright orange, pink, red, gold, and yellow. A covered porch on the back opens to a courtyard garden, which is landscaped with Amelie’s handmade Portland cement plant containers. There is a mature maple tree and a crepe myrtle that flowers deep red blossoms in the summer. The Ferimers had a large number of river rocks transferred to the courtyard, and have used them to artfully shape raised garden beds and to line a stone walkway, which leads to a privacy fence exit.

Inside, a wicker chair dating back to the 1920s, and much of the downstair’s furniture, comes from the Ferimers’ grandparents. Lovers of art, the Ferimers have two large reproductions by Monet in the living room, and a seascape by Wilmington’s own Mary Ellen Golden in the dining area. This wall has bright white five-foot wainscoting on the bottom two thirds, and an elegant wallpaper reminiscent of blonde bamboo above.

More happy walls are found in the kitchen. A former owner lined them with large white subway tiles, alternating with much smaller mosaic tiles in shades of cream, green, gray, blue, and brown. Hardwood floors of pine shine throughout three rooms and lead to the deep-treaded staircase. “We love the stairs,” Amelie says, “because when you step, your whole foot, including the heel, is safe on each stair.”

At the top of the stairs are three bedrooms and the bathroom. Storage for the bath is provided by a large open wooden bookcase that Amelie painted sage green. Several rectangular wicker baskets of the same color are used effectively for storage. The whole unit looks quite grand, both handsome and efficient in this historic row house, which reflects the personalities of its owners.

Carl W. Povogt, a prominent Wilmington businessman, who built the row houses in 1915, could not have guessed a little more than 100 years later, they would grace the Azalea Festival Home Tour. This two-story row of nine attached housing units features a pale-yellow stucco over brick exterior, and heavy window hoods over paired and single one-over-one windows. In 1983 the row houses were purchased by Northside Properties and restored under the guidance of developer Gene Merritt Jr., today known affectionately as “the Guv’nah!”

The home tour is Historic Wilmington Foundation’s flagship fundraiser. Historic Wilmington Foundation is a preservation advocacy membership-based nonprofit. Since 1966, more than 100 buildings in Wilmington and the lower Cape Fear region have been restored.

The tour includes nine houses and the Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will kick off the home tour on Saturday, April 8, 12:30 p.m., at the David Reid Murchison House, 305 S. Third St. City and county officials and the Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Belles will be on hand for the ribbon cutting. Ticketed guests are invited to join them, tour the Second Empire style home, and enjoy free Dairy Queen ice cream.

Tickets are $30 in advance, and $35 starting Saturday, April 8, lasting through Sunday, April 9. Tickets are available at the North Carolina Azalea Festival Office and several other locations ( Tickets will be available during the Azalea Festival weekend for $35 at each home and the church. Cash only will be accepted, except for the David Reid Murchison House where credit cards may be used.

Historic Wilmington
Foundation Home Tour
April 8-9 • $30-$35
Various locations

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  1. Maryam Island

    April 7, 2020 at 10:38 am

    Hey! It’s a good idea of the Ferimers, it had a large number of river rocks transferred to the courtyard, they used them to artfully shape raised garden beds and to line a stone walkway, which leads to a privacy fence exit.

  2. Samana

    October 10, 2020 at 3:51 am

    Nice, the Hardwood floors of pine shine throughout three rooms and lead to the deep-treaded staircase.

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