WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - If the tennis court at 1406 Orange Street in Wilmington — site of the former home of Dr. Hubert Eaton — could speak, it would tell stories of past major champions like Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson practicing on the clay surface.
Many others also played there since they weren’t allowed on public courts because of the color of their skin.
For more than a year, One Love Tennis — a Wilmington-based organization that teaches life lessons to at-risk youth through tennis — has been restoring the house and court on the property.
“This court meant hope and pride to this community,” said Lenny Simpson of One Love Tennis. “For a black man to be able to have a tennis court and a swimming pool privately owned next to each other, it meant everything to this community.”
Completion of the work on the tennis courts was delayed for nearly six months because of wet weather and Hurricane Florence.
Now fully restored, the court can once again be used for tennis but perhaps more importantly as a learning tool.
“We need to make sure that kids playing on this court and our One Love Tennis program understand the history behind it,” said Simpson, who grew up behind the court and mastered the game of tennis on it.
Years later, the memories of his youth have come rushing back.
“I had so many flashbacks of when I came over here at 5 years of age,” Simpson said of stepping on the court after it was finished. “At 8 years of age, at 11 years of age, I could almost verbatim tell you what I did on this court.”