Historic Real Estate: Revival of the Curtis-Foster House

Neighbors cheer as award-winning preservationists help restore the black sheep of the block to its original beauty. Over the past several decades, the historic Curtis-Foster House, located on North 6th Street in Wilmington North Carolina, has fallen into significant disrepair and turned into an eyesore on a street of historical homes. This came to a halt in late 2005 when Osprey Holdings LLC bought the property, ending its tenure as an unauthorized, low-rent boarding house and began to restore the property to its original grandeur.

110 North 6th Street, named the Curtis-Foster House after its original owners, was built circa 1865 for George Curtis and his wife, Melvina Ann Medley. The couple married on November 23 1849 and had three children, one of whom, Katie, died from measles age six February 2, 1869. Curtis died a year later, leaving his wife to care for the home until 1881 when she leased the property to Gertrude Foster for five dollars a month (in today’s market, a house of this type could rent for over $1000 a month!).

Tim O’Callaghan of Osprey Holdings LLC began work on the 5000 square foot home last summer. His first step was to take a sledge hammer to the walls in search of asbestos, a hazardous material used for insulation up until the 1980s. To his relief, O’Callaghan found only cedar lap siding, a sign of solid construction.

Patching and coating the original tin roof with Hydro Stop to prevent leaks was next, followed by restoring the windows. To re-tie, re-weight, scrape, clean, and prime just one window is a full-day project. Still on the list: refinishing the original hardwood floors and cherry banister.

“The most exciting step is restoring the floors,” said O’Callaghan. “The entire room will reflect off them.”

Though not yet complete, renovation of the Curtis-Foster House has already had an impact on neighbors’ comfort and the salability of the area. Since March 2006, four homes on the block sold for an average of $197 per square foot, a huge increase in activity and value since the years before. The Curtis-Foster house will join the selection of Wilmington historic homes for sale in the late spring.