The Residents of Old Wilmington (ROW), having just celebrated their 40th anniversary, proudly present their major fund-raiser on October 12th: the 8th annual Back Door Kitchen Tour. Nine selected kitchens and homes in Wilmington’s Historic District will be shown off for culinary inspiration. Considered the “heart of the home,” the kitchens allow tour patrons a sneak peek through the back of the home to explore and then exit through the front door. Proceeds from the tour are reinvested by ROW, a nonprofit composed of business members and home owners. They fund projects which benefit the Historic District, such as the Venus Flytrap sculpture, “Southern Hospitality,” which stands at the foot of Front and Market streets. Other projects include reforestation of Fifth Avenue, the Ann Street pedestrian and bike crossing, and new display cases at Thalian Hall.
Tour co-chair Phyllis Goodson, a fellow ROW member, remains very excited about the selection of homes for this year’s fund-raiser. Comfortable shoes are advised for climbing steps, and a free trolley service will be available. The nine homes grouped together by twos and threes, include the William H. Alderman, Brockwell Place, Brady-Ross, Martin-Crouch, Smith-Ferguson, Neil M. McEachern, J. W. Brooks Building, Grace Home and the Chapman House.
Mindy Heu, an interior designer, and her river-pilot husband Bill, live at the William H. Alderman House, 521 Dock Street. Their recently renovated kitchen includes a walk-in pantry, farm sink, honed marble countertops, and a butcher-block island. This kitchen’s Victorian features boast open shelving and bright white tile up to the tops of the windows.
“The kitchen is my favorite room,” says Heu, who walked last year’s tour. “I love my walk-in pantry because I can see all the ingredients I need at a glance. We like Thai and Indian cuisine; I’m seasoning a funnel-shaped clay pot for a Moroccan stew. Brooks Addis, who renovated the kitchen, will be on hand to answer questions.”
The Brockwell Place—a Mediterranean-style home and inspiration for Kathleen McLeod’s painting, “411 S. Front Street”—once housed former Wilmington celebrity Linda Lavin. New owners, attorneys Amanda Mason and her husband Bill, only made a few gentle modifications, including a light fixture and a less commercial dishwasher.
“Our kitchen is a huge open space with a gas fireplace,” Mason says. “Bill can be cooking on one side of the kitchen, and I can be busy on the other, and we are completely out of each other’s way. I really like the bar off the kitchen, which has a classic and elegant feel to it. Some people say it reminds them of an ol’ timey speak easy.”
The Brady-Ross House is the new residence of Wilmington’s own cooking queen, Alicia Ross, and her mother, Gayle Brady. Ross is known for her WWAY cooking show and column “The Kitchen Scoop,” as well as authoring three cookbooks, “Desperation Dinners!”, “Desperation Entertaining!” and “Cheap. Fast. Good!”
“Our kitchen is very open and easy to up-light for my cooking show,” Ross says. “It is painted classic white and serves as a background palette for the colors of the season. Country-cooking, which goes back to my roots, is my comfort food, but I enjoy experimenting with flavors from all around the world.”
Mark and Cathy Stanley’s The Chapman House, 210 Church Street, has stainless appliances, granite countertops and milk-glass pocket French doors, which open on to a large screened-in back porch that overlooks a beautiful shade garden.
Bill and Kathryn Graham’s kitchen in the J.W. Brooks Building, 18 S. Water Street, Suite 10, looks all the way out to the Cape Fear River and features wooden countertops that are 200 years old. The historic interior features exposed brick walls, heavy wooden beams and high ceilings.
Andrew and Nnenne Terzian of the Martin-Crouch House, 520 Dock Street, live in a Colonial Revival-style home. Their kitchen sports Carrara marble countertops, a charcoal kyanite island, and a stunning black-and-brass French gas oven.
David and Emily Grace of The Grace Home, 206 N. 7th Street, fuse the old with the new in this two-story Victorian residence which dates back to 1900 and features a kitchen with tall ceilings, multiple fireplaces and the original floors.
Chris Gore and Matt TenHuisen of the Smith-Ferguson House, 512 Grace Street did all the design and renovation work in their contemporary-styled kitchen which showcases rosewood and bubinga hardwood floors, granite countertops, and a coffered ceiling.
The Neil M. McEachern House, 214 N. 6th Street, owned by Richard and Linda Mechling, is a Neoclassical Revival style house whose kitchen features a cozy fireplace complimented by a second grander fireplace mantel in the adjoining family room. This house has slate flooring from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and double French doors which lead out to a stately pergola and antique fountains among a lush backyard garden.
“The Back Door Kitchen Tour is a great way to take in the history, Southern charm and hospitality that Wilmington’s Downtown Residential District has to offer,” Paul Lawler, president of ROW, says. “This year’s tour offers a wide variety of homes to both inspire the gourmet chef, as well as satisfy the appetite of your inner historian. It is a great downtown event and proceeds are reinvested in the community, making Wilmington a better place for all.”
DETAILS: Back Door Kitchen Tour
October 12th, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tickets: $25, available at any participating home, Bellamy Mansion (503 Market Street) and area Harris Teeters grocery stores