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Historic Real Estate: Curtis-Foster House Revival

Neighbors applaud as award-winning conservationists help restore the block’s black sheep to its original beauty. In recent decades, the historic Curtis-Foster House, located on North 6th Street in Wilmington, North Carolina, has deteriorated significantly and become an eyesore on a street of historic homes. This stopped in late 2005 when Osprey Holdings LLC purchased the property, ended its tenure as a low-rent unauthorized boarding house, and began restoring the property to its original grandeur.

110 North 6th Street, named the Curtis-Foster House after its original owners, was built around 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 in middle age on February 2, 1869. Curtis died a year later, leaving his wife in charge of the household until 1881. , when he leased the property to Gertrude Foster for $5 a month (in today’s market, such a house could rent for over $1,000 a month!).

Tim O’Callaghan of Osprey Holdings LLC began work on the 5,000-square-foot home last summer. His first step was to take a sledgehammer to the walls looking for asbestos, a hazardous material used for insulation until the 1980s. To his relief, O’Callaghan found only cedar siding, a sign of solid construction.

Next was patching and coating the original tin roof with Hydro Stop to prevent leaks, followed by restoration of the windows. Re-tying, re-weighing, scraping, cleaning and priming just one window is a full day project. Still on the list: Restore the original hardwood floors and cherry railing.

“The most exciting step is restoring the floors,” O’Callaghan said. “The whole room will be reflected in them.”

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

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