Wilmington’s Back Door Kitchen Tour with the Beck’s
Residents of Old Wilmington’s Back Door Kitchen Tour offers a peek into some of downtown’s most distinctive homes, including Leping and Dan Beck’s home on S. 7th Street.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Jason Hudson
Have you ever felt intrigued by the charming and stately homes in downtown Wilmington and just wished that you could take a peek inside? This October you are invited to do just that when Residents of Old Wilmington (ROW,) a nonprofit community organization, hosts the 2014 Back Door Kitchen Tour fundraiser.
The event offers the public an opportunity to take a closer look at some of these splendid homes. The tour not only allows guests to get decorating and design inspiration, but also gives the homes a chance to “tell” their stories from a bygone era that helped shape downtown and give the city its present-day allure.
The tour features nine kitchens and one award-winning garden. One of the homes belongs to Leping and Dan Beck. The Becks felt an instant attraction to Wilmington on their very first visit in 2009. Dan, who is an awarded artist, and Leping, an owner of a law firm, traveled from their home in Denver, Colorado, to Southport to visit relatives.
“We had never been to this area of the East Coast before,” says Leping.
During their stay, they took a day-trip to Wilmington.
“We were thinking about moving out of Colorado,” says Leping, “and my husband had lived in the South at one time. We saw Wilmington, and we just loved it.”
While on another visit in 2012, Leping started looking online for homes in the area. She came across a foreclosed, circa 1890 house on S. 7th Street, now known as The McEachern-Divine House, and went to take a look.
“It was really beat up,” says Leping. “My husband joked, ‘Have you ever seen the movie, Money Pit?’ Luckily I hadn’t … but I still just really liked it.”
The Becks had a vision. They could see through the house’s peeling paint and dilapidated appearance and were attracted to the distinctive details within the home and its architectural exterior. Even though the Becks had never renovated like this before, the idea of preserving this historic home was important to them.
“One of the front windows was missing and boarded up and there was literally only one light bulb left hanging from a string,” says Leping. “The structure was good, but it hadn’t been taken care of in about 20 years.”
They originally thought about buying this as an investment property but decided to make it their home. With this in mind, Leping set out to begin renovations — while still living and working in Colorado. The Becks hired a local restoration consultant to research the home’s history so that it could be renovated as closely to the original house as possible. Then they went about filing for an official historic plaque to be placed on the home.
The exterior was completed first; the siding, roof, chimneys and windows were repaired and painted. Next came the interior — a closet taken out in the entry opened up the house’s interior, and new bathrooms, painted walls, refinished hardwood floors and a modern kitchen were installed.
“I went online to Lowe’s and picked out everything for our kitchen,” Leping says, “then the contractor in Wilmington would pick it up at a local Lowe’s.”
The Becks took great care to preserve the house’s historic details, but with two children and active careers, they wanted an up-to-date kitchen to suit their family’s needs. When designing the kitchen, Leping used modern homes as an inspiration.
“I noticed that no matter the shape of your kitchen, big or small, people always tend to gather there,” says Leping.
Her focus on the kitchen was a room where her family and friends could congregate while she could cook and do work at the same time. To create more space in the area, an unusable fireplace was removed. The room features state-of-the art appliances, a large rounded bar that connects to an office work area, granite counter tops, a tile floor, a glass backsplash and plenty of custom cabinetry. And, of course, the kitchen has its own back door ready to be opened to company.
When asked what she likes best about her new kitchen, Leping says, “I have enough cabinets!”
After the renovations, Dan, Leping and their two girls can finally enjoy their “new” home and fresh landscaping. The Becks received approval for an official plaque citing its historic significance and, in turn, adding yet more personality and meaningfulness to downtown.
The Becks are opening their back door to visitors in pure Southern hospitality during the 2014 Back Door Kitchen Tour. The home’s transformation will be shared, and guests will be treated with a one-of-a-kind snapshot into yesteryear.
The detailed and careful planning behind the event by dedicated ROW members will surely make this year’s Back Door Kitchen Tour a celebrated success.
“The thing that really enriches Wilmington, is that when you visit, you feel like you already know people, even though you may never have been here before,” says Alicia Ross, member of ROW and one of the coordinators for the 2014 event.
This year’s tour is dedicated to founding ROW member Miss Dolly Humphrey Pearson, who passed away at age 102 this year. The tour’s proceeds flow right back into downtown through civic grants, safety improvements and beautification of the area.
“You will get a keepsake mini-magazine with your ticket purchase,” says Ross. “The tour route is fairly compact this year, so it will be a beautiful walk, or you can choose to use the free trolley service that is running throughout the day.”
To top off the experience and add authenticity, docents will be present in each home on the tour.
For the Becks, their hope is that guests who visit their home get something special out of the experience.
“We want people to be able to appreciate homes like this, and places like downtown Wilmington because a lot of locations aren’t as unique as this,” says Leping. “The beauty of Wilmington can’t be matched.” n
2014 Back Door Kitchen Tour
When: October 11, 2014 from 11 am to 5 pm
Where: Parking is available near the homes on the tour and on public lots on 2nd St. Maps will be provided for the self-guided tour.
111 S. 7th Street
113 S. 7th Street
300 S. Front Street (garden)
503 S. Front Street
312 S. 3rd Street
112 Orange Street
114 Orange Street
201 S. 4th Street
310 S. 4th Street
414 Nun Street
Tickets: $25 for adults; $15 for children 12 and younger; free for carried babies.