Fulton Heights Holiday Home Tour promises conversation pieces around every corner

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 5, 2019

SALISBURY — In preparing to host a stop on Saturday evening’s Fulton Heights Holiday Home Tour, Maggie Blackwell came up with a three-week plan.

She devoted the first week to cleaning the house. Maggie and husband Jody’s one-and-a-half-story, Tudor Revival home is deceivingly big — more than 3,000 square feet — so that was a job in itself.

Maggie spent all of last week decorating for the season, going with a little bit of an old-fashioned feel, even down to the decorative ropes of wool felt balls and dried orange slices (a couple of hours in the oven on low temperature) on the dining room Christmas tree.

On Tuesday of this week, Maggie started baking the cookies and other treats she’ll have for Saturday’s visitors, who’ll be able to tour the whole house, save Jody’s office, where their dog will find sanctuary.

There will be a tub for cold beer on the porch and also some wine available in the dining room.

Tour-goers will find they are in a beautifully restored and appointed home that’s worthy of any kind of house tour, not just a holiday one.

Conversation pieces abound in every room. Many reflect the craftsmanship and ingenuity of Jody Blackwell. Ask, for example, about the pot holder in the kitchen, the overhead light in the living room or where the television is hidden.

Other things betray childhood memories, family history, past cities where the couple have lived and beautiful items they have collected.

The living room coffee table is a Lineberry factory cart once used in a textile plant. Maggie points out the holes on the ends for 2-by-4s that would hold bolts of fabric.

The kitchen sink is a rescue — a discarded behemoth the Blackwells saved from some woods in Rowan County. It’s heavy and deep. And a treasure.

“We’ve bathed grandbabies in there — and dogs,” Maggie reports.

Located at 422 Mitchell Ave., the Blackwells’ home is one of four on the 2019 Fulton Heights Holiday Home Tour, which will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday. Here’s a brief rundown of the other locations:

• 502 Mitchell Ave.: Lauren and Wendy Alexander-Persse bought this home, also a 1935 brick Tudor, in November 2018 from Luke and Carolyn Stephenson, who had been living there since 1985.

“We love the Fulton Heights neighborhood,” the women said in a description for the tour brochure. “It’s been a really nice year getting to know new people, as well as getting to hang out with friends we already had.”

The couple say their first project provided for new fencing around the back patio and getting rid of a metal shed. They are working on new planting beds, painting the interior “and making it ours.”

• 119 Wiley Ave.: Templin Frame bought this 1930 Craftsman bungalow in February 2018. The recently remodeled kitchen was designed around the original black-and-white, hexagonal tile floor.

A former dining room is now a den. A brick patio and fire pit were added to the backyard. In front, mason Chad Woolett rebuilt the granite and stone wall with the original pieces.

The house also features a welcoming porch, original hardwood floors, built-in bookcases and Art Deco light fixtures.

• 1409 Crosby St.: A native of Texas, Elise Tellez bought this one-story, “gable frame minimal traditional house” in the fall of 2018. It dates back to 1937.

“Since buying the home,” the tour brochure says, “(Tellez) has taken on small projects to make it her own, including building a raised bed in the backyard, installing gutters, redoing a section of the driveway and decorating — along the way finding old toys buried in the front yard while gardening.”

“She and her roommate, Liz Moomey, love the Fulton Heights neighborhood, frequently taking Bella, a Jack Russell terrier mix, on walks and chatting with our friendly neighbors.”

The Blackwells bought their house in 1996, and they have its original blueprints.

One of the many highlights of their home is “Maggie’s Attic,” which is her office and studio in the front part of the house. It used to be part of an upstairs apartment.

Maggie, former mayor pro tem of Salisbury, uses the office for her freelance writing, which includes stories for the Salisbury Post and Salisbury the Magazine.

She also compiles important records for the newspaper, including divorces, marriages, building permits and deeds. Her handsome, tucked-away office had been the apartment’s kitchen.

In her studio portion of the attic, Maggie has returned to another passion — painting.

The upstairs also includes Jody’s entertainment room, a bathroom and a large, open area that features three Art Deco light fixtures that were gifts from late friends and neighbors Ned and Rachel Towell and came from an old movie theater in Boston.

Maggie especially adores a skirt hanger positioned over the stairwell that now holds a Santa Claus poster. She hopes it will be holding some of her artwork in the future.

The Blackwells were on the holiday tour about 10 years. Back then, one of the original family members of the house, Rachel Kepley Edmiston, who was 82 at the time, sat in the living room and shared memories with visitors.

She has since passed away.

For this tour, Maggie acknowledges she has brought out more of her Christmas decorations than usual. Everything already is in place, except for some small vintage ornaments that Maggie is still deciding what to do with.

The dining room table is neatly set for the holidays. A breakfast table in the kitchen includes a snow globe piece Maggie fashioned herself.

She used Epsom salts for snow, and a glass cake cover to house her scene, which also incorporates miniature Christmas trees from Hobby Lobby and a Santa with a bag full of toys.

It all sits on a pedestaled piece of wood fashioned by the city’s Mark Martin that was a Margaret Kluttz Community Appearance Award once presented to Maggie.

A wall in the Blackwells’ downstairs hallway will stop many visitors. It holds close to 25 framed pictures.

Maggie, as a youngster, is among one set of photos showing six generations of women in her family. At the top center is a folded U.S. flag from her Marine son, who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Blackwells have three children and 12 grandchildren.

Everywhere you turn in the house is a story. The vintage stove, where Maggie is doing this week’s baking, came from Texas and she recalls how the shipping cost was as much as the stove itself.

Jody used his carpentry skills in numerous places to create perfect niches, set up functional closets and open up walls to windows and light.

Don’t mistake the tall plant in the living room, decorated with a large Christmas ornament, for a rubber plant. It’s a fiddle leaf fig, Maggie says.

And speaking of ornaments, Maggie seems to have tucked away in virtually every room, a red Christmas ball. They are fun to hunt — and a delightful surprise to find.

Also be on the lookout for the Blackwells’ cat, Spencer, which is a longstanding cat name in the Blackwell family.

But that’s just another conversation you’ll encounter on the Saturday tour of homes in Fulton Heights.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.