Walking up the wide brick walkway to Dave and Kelly Sopp's front door, one can't help but wonder who walked the same path before. The white, two-story 1906 Mooresville home is known to locals and history buffs as the Zebulon Turlington house, named after the original owner. And now, after sitting empty for years, the Sopps are filling the historic house with the same brand of love the Turlingtons did, one that extends to the community and the town. After the Sopp's son, Atticus, 11, was born, the couple decided San Francisco and their "earthquake cottage" no longer suited them. That's when they began their quest to find a small town where he could enjoy the idyllic childhood they envisioned for their son, a place where he could chase fireflies without worry. They decided they wanted to find a place with good schools, of course, but they also wanted a community where Atticus would feel safe to play in the yard and where they could connect with neighbors. And they definitely wanted an old home somewhere in the south, though they didn't want to be too far away from the amenities a big city offers, either. After all, they were also moving their business, Wry Baby, a baby clothes and gift retailer. The Sopps say they found the perfect mix in Mooresville after spending a week with a realtor traveling to small towns around the edges of Charlotte. Now, says Dave, he has what he wants, though he does have to think twice before walking downtown to run errands since he usually encounters so many friendly faces along the way. "It can take a couple hours," he says of the short walk, chuckling.Dave says this is the first time he's ever felt so connected to his community. "You just can't help but get swept up in the enthusiasm of the people who live here," he says. Now an active member of the town's Historic Preservation Committee, the self-branded "ad creative" helped with the town mayor's last campaign, and even helped to re-brand Mooresville itself into the quaint downtown district it's become since, well, the Sopps moved here in July 2006.A welcoming covered porch ushers visitors inside the 4,300-square-foot house, where it’s open and bright. Looking out the big, period-perfect, hand-blown glass windows, towering oak and dogwood trees are visible in the picturesque backyard. The house was one of the highlights of last year’s Historic Mooresville Tour of Homes. Brent Zande, a developer who lives nearby, is also a member of the Historic Preservation Committee. He says he hopes the Sopp’s renovation success encourages other residents to rediscover their historic homes and the beauty of their small town. To others looking to renovate, Zande encourages them to be patient and take their time. The Sopps are a good example: The family worked on the house in multiple phases over a four-year period, making upgrades and improvements in the kitchen, library, master bathroom, back deck and front porch. It was hard work getting the Turlington house back in shape. The Sopps are only the home's third owners. Zebulon Turlington, once the town's lawyer and the N.C. state senator who spearheaded the state's prohibition laws (and dare we say one of the men responsible for helping start NASCAR) lived in the house until he passed away in 1969. After that, the house sat empty for decades, its furnishings covered with sheets, until a speculator bought it, sold the antiques and, effectively, made a mess of the place in a failed attempt to flip it. So the first thing the Sopps had to do was "make it safe,” Kelly says, which took them about two years. During the initial demolition phase, the couple ripped out old fixtures and wiring and plumbing, and along the way they found some treasures, such as the simple but elegant wooden medallions that once graced the center of each doorway. Years ago someone had removed the medallions, leaving behind scratch marks and faint circular impressions. As they were cleaning and organizing, the Sopps found one of the remaining circles on some old scraps. Dave took it to a local carpenter who replicated it, and now they're back, again gracing the entryway to each room. That's been the couple's mode of operation since the start: Their goal was to return the home to its former glory, updating the obvious – like the kitchen – while working to maintain as much of the home's historic features as possible.Fortunately for them, Mooresville is a small town, so they were able to find some of the home's original furnishings in nearby antique shops. Now, even the art on the walls reminds visitors that they're in a special place, perhaps a bit out of time, but perfectly suited for Mooresville’s historic district. The family did take a year off from remodeling to simply live in the house. "We needed to decide how we were going to use it," Kelly says. For example, after that year she decided she wanted a better view into the backyard, so once they began work again they added an additional 300 square feet, making a beautiful back entryway with plenty of windows so Kelly can watch Atticus and the fireflies from the kitchen. ALB Architecture in Davidson helped with the addition. The company also helped the family recreate the home's front porch and remove aluminum siding. Angie Lauer, a partner with the company, says the Sopps did a great job updating the home while at the same time maintaining it’s historic integrity. “There really weren't too many challenges other than to ensure it remained period correct," Lauer says of the project.With the house done, their business thriving and their role in the community secure, the Sopps says they truly feel right at home. "We've never forgotten why we moved here," Kelly says.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.