By Anne Rose
Neighborly visits on a lazy afternoon are friendliest when the invitation is to come on ‘round to the kitchen door.
Steve and Suda Tuggle are gracious and enthusiastic downtowners, having opened their home for garden and home tours benefiting a multitude of Wilmington organizations. The purchased the Maria McKoy House in 2002. For the first time this October, the house will be a stop on the Back Door Kitchen Tour, sponsored by the Residents of Old Wilmington.
The tour of the Tuggle’s kitchen at 510 South Third Street starts down the drive, through the garden gate, and up the porch steps to, as advertised, the back door. The kitchen is a gourmet cook’s delight, merging contemporary convenience with old Americana and a bold dash of personality. Black granite countertops and maple cabinets make a clean statement against the graphic black and white checkered floor.
Suda has an artist’s eye, and combines her paintings with a tremendous collection of antiques. Many of the pieces in the kitchen, she notes, came from their previous house, which was decorated in an early American country theme. What at first seemed a mismatch, Suda points out, for this Wilmington “city house,” worked beautifully. The high ceilings and multitude of kitchen windows showcase collectibles displayed with a wonderful sense of whimsy, like the series of early rolling pins hung with their handles inserted between the links of two old chains. Simple ingenuity is at play everywhere. Steve’s collection of antique bottles, in shades of blue and violet, line every window sash to play with the sunlight. The bottles were found over the years at various sites in Wilmington – exposed for picking following heavy rains.
For Suda and Steve, the process of restoring and preserving their Neoclassical Revival style home was literally one of picking away layers. Steve remembers coming home from work one evening to find Suda in the front parlor, chipping away at the brick fireplace to uncover the original tile and mantel underneath. Suda has stripped paint, repaired and loved almost every inch of the house.
The Maria McKoy House was built in 1913 on the lot purchased by Maria Brown McKoy for $825. Maria and her husband Robert, a Princeton-educated lawyer and owner of Robert H. McKoy Cotton and Produce Brokers, raised 5 children in the home, which was sold by the family in 1943 for $9350. Between 1958 and 2002, the property was sold several times and had become a multi-tenant residence when it was purchased by the Tuggles. They have spent years restoring the home to its stately past.
“We know we will never get everything done, but we think that it’s important to leave some of the sense of discovery and ownership to whomever lives here next,” says Steve.
This year’s Back Door Kitchen Tour includes nine homes in Wilmington’s downtown Historic District, open for an inspiring afternoon of remodel and restoration ideas. The tour includes a Front Street mansion with stunning Cape Fear River views, two remodeled Castle Street bungalows, an artist’s retreat and two elegant and compatibly designed recently constructed homes. The tour is walkable, with all stops within a six block radius.
The Back Door Kitchen Tour is the only fundraiser for Residents of Old Wilmington (ROW), a nonprofit, all volunteer, neighborhood association. Proceeds go to back into the downtown Wilmington community for beautification, preservation, restoration, and other improvements, through ROW projects and grants. Tour tickets are $30 the day of the tour and $25 in advance. Advance ticket sales begin September 1 at area retail outlets and online via Paypal at www.rowwilmington.org. Find ticket sale locations and more information on the website.