Wilmington, NC 10 - Much Ado About Murder
Daddy were alive then and we all went to Thalian Hall to see South Pacific ?”
“How could I ever forget? What a wonderful evening.”
“Well, Vivian was behind getting the Thalian Association to produce South Pacific .”
“That’s my favorite musical,” I said.
“Mine too,” Melanie agreed. Her voice caught in her throat. “I miss Mama and Daddy so much.”
I slipped my arm around her waist. “Me too.” I had to change the subject or we’d both be crying out on the street. “I’m on the float committee,” I said. “We’ll have a float in the Azalea Festival parade. So we all know Dalton. What’s his story? Why is he selling his house?”
“Poor Dalton can’t manage that big house anymore. He’ll be buying into assisted living out at Brightmore so he needs the money.”
“How much money are we talking about?”
“We listed it for seven-fifty but I think he’ll take seven-twenty-five,” she said blithefully as if everyone needing a house has seven-hundred-twenty-five thousand dollars lying around. Our restoration business has been slow, just as her real estate business has been slow. But the economy is slowly coming back. Things are picking up.
We reached Front Street, then walked around the corner to stand in front of Linda Lavin’s house and stare across the street at the very large, two-story frame house on the west side of South Front Street. I’d done some research. The house was wood frame, made of heart pine, the wood many of our older houses were made of. The Bellamy Mansion is made of cypress. The house was supposed to be white but the paint was dingy and peeling, a wreck.
Late Georgian in style, it had been built around 1770 by an Englishman who had immigrated to Wilmington to make a life here. He was the first Dalton Montjoy . As a young man, so the story goes, he had been an actor on the stage of the Drury Lane Theater in London. But it was here in Wilmington that he made his fortune as a Commission Merchant, buying and selling merchandise as it arrived at the docks directly below the house. His success in business did not deter his love for the theater, however, for the family claims he was one of the original founders of the Thalian Association in 1788, along with Colonel Archibald McNeill and several others whose identities remain unknown.
“I don’t see a For Sale sign,” I told Melanie.
“That’s because I haven’t put one up yet. I wanted you to have first crack at the house.” She lowered her sunglasses and gave me a long look. “You know I always take care of you, shug .”
“Yes, that’s true. We take care of each other. Mel, I may know about the history of the house and its architecture, but I don’t really know the details other than it’s been used as a boarding house for actors for the last twenty years. Through good times and bad, the Montjoys have managed to hang onto it. And now the line has run out and it’ll be passing to someone else.”
Melanie started across the street. “The house needs a lot of work. But taking a down-on-its-heels house and making it sparkle again is just what you and Jon love doing. As you say, this house has been used as a boarding house so some of the larger rooms have been partitioned off into smaller bedrooms. And tiny bathrooms have been added.”
“How many bathrooms? Can I see the listing sheet?”
“Don’t have the listing sheet prepared yet. But there are eight.”
“Eight? Eight bathrooms?”
“Sure ‘ nuff .”
We had strolled across the street by then, standing right in front of the house just outside the wrought iron gate which stood open. Actually, it was wedged into the ground and looked like you couldn’t wrestle it loose if you were a real-life Iron Man. Many of the fence rails were broken. Oh, this house was indeed a fixer upper.
“Mel, if this house is going to take so much work, why is the price so high?”
She turned to me and spoke slowly, as if speaking to a child. “Because of its location, Ashley, and its size. Wait till you see the back. High on a bluff overlooking the Cape Fear with no obstruction of the view and there never will be. It’s got a half acre. A half-acre downtown! Of prime location real estate. That’s unheard of. You fix this up and it’ll be worth a million and a half, easy.”
She ignored me and went on with her spiel. “Inside, it’s got four floors if you count the English basement. Lots of light for a basement. You and Jon can
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