Written by Colleen Thompson | Photography by Fociis
Opera House Theatre Company brought artist, designer and actress Jenny McKinnon Wright to Wilmington, NC. A friend insisted that she and her two young daughters stay in his house, which was perched on Sunset Hill in the historic downtown of the city. The house overlooked the Cape Fear River, which captivated Jenny’s heart and she knew then that she wanted to live in a house of her own looking over the river.
“That river! That river is magnetic to me. There were only 8 houses on Sunset Hill that had a close- up view of the river,” said Jenny. A few years later, she bravely knocked on the door of 314 S Front St, where friends Guy and Justine Ferreri lived – to simply ask them if she could buy their house.
“Upon walking up to the porch, you immediately see the river shining beyond. They invited me in for a conversation that ended up with me becoming the next caretaker of the charming Queen Anne home. Philander Pearsall, a wholesale grocer, and his wife, Mary Brown Pearsall, a socialite from Richmond, VA, built it in 1899.
It was important to Jenny from the beginning to respect the history and integrity of the house, so she went about opening up closed rooms and replacing architectural details that had been removed, allowing the house to breathe and return to its gracious origins, but still accommodate a contemporary lifestyle.
As an interior designer, her inspiration came from the stained glass feature above the front door that drove the color scheme as it shone through the house.
Beveled glass French doors were added to open up the music room and the south parlor, allowing light to filter through and complete the circular flow through the house. Overlooking the Cape Fear River the house begged for double porches, which were added, matching the style and proportion of the front porch.
A porcelain tile floor with a border design from the 1800s was added to the kitchen. Bathrooms were updated with modern touches like granite and quartz, and hardwood flooring replaced old vinyl throughout the house.
“A happy accident while shopping for a client led to my favorite addition to the house. An exquisite crystal chandelier signed by F and C Osler and made in Birmingham, England in 1860. It throws light throughout the rooms and is a central focal point downstairs. It’s perfectly at home with family antiques and new purchases.
When asked what her favorite room in the house might be, Jenny is hard pressed to choose the music room. “This house has such a joyful spirit and loves a party and she has had her share. From cabarets and cast parties to art shows and gathering friends to toast the glorious sunsets which are simply stunning from the back porch. I never tire of that river that drew me here and continues to have a hold on my heart, but the time has come for another family to enjoy those sunsets.” Jenny and her husband, Richard Knight, have listed the home for sale. It is being marketed by Landmark Sotheby’s International Realty. For more information, call Jane Davis at 910-520-4444.