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Living in Capeside and Tree Hill
I don’t know how or when I first heard of Wilmington, North Carolina. I also don’t remember how or when I first learned it was the setting for “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill.”
Here’s what I do remember: Seeing the beautiful landscapes on TV, reading cast interviews that referenced eating at Elijah’s and getting ice cream at Kilwins, hearing about the humidity… oh, the humidity.
I always knew I wanted to visit one day and the “One Tree Hill” fan conventions were certainly tempting reasons to make the journey to North Carolina from New York. But all the money that entailed pretty much ensured such a trip was out of the question. Yet it was cost that ended up playing a fairly significant role in my eventual move here.
In 2014, I was looking to relocate after spending most of life on the uber-expensive Long Island, but I found myself pretty much priced out of the tristate area. So I asked myself, Where else do I know that I can actually afford? To where do I feel any kind of connection? I had already lived in Chicago and one of its suburbs, but didn’t want to go back to the Midwest.
Wilmington then came to mind.
There was, of course, the small matter that I had never actually been there before. So in April of that year, my dad and I flew down to explore and look at apartments. We also took a tour of Screen Gems, the studios where “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill” were based, and I made sure to visit some of the downtown filming locations and snap pictures of memorabilia in various restaurants and stores.
But here’s the thing: I wasn’t impressed. I had spent so many years building up Wilmington in my head as some kind of “fantasyland” that I was let down upon realizing it wasn’t this totally magical place but instead kind of just like everywhere else, more or less. I went home after my brief visit unsure what I was going to do.
Then a strange thing happened… I started missing it. I began yearning to go back to this place that wasn’t quite what I expected but still was something. And so, that September, I made the big move. I signed a 12-month lease and told myself this relocation wasn’t permanent; I’d take things just a year at a time. Well, fast-forward to 2020, and I’ve been here for six years.
It might surprise you what has and hasn’t happened since I settled in Capeside and Tree Hill. For example, I still haven’t seen most filming locations. If I haven’t come across it in my normal day-to-day life, I haven’t been there. So that means, yes, I’ve passed Karen’s Cafe / Clothes Over Bros a bunch of times, but I haven’t bothered going to Lucas’ house or finding Brooke’s. There have been multiple”One Tree Hill” conventions since I moved here, but despite my past longing to attend and now not having to worry about airfare and lodging, I still haven’t wanted to spend the money to actually go.
I have had some random encounters with teen drama stars, though. In 2015, at a local restaurant that has since closed and become a Chopt, I recognized Peter Jurasik, who played Mr. Kubelik in two season 4 episodes of “Dawson’s Creek” and also appeared in “One Tree Hill” as Brooke’s mean boss at Carl’s Crab Shack (yes, he was Carl). We had a lovely conversation and I learned he was teaching acting at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
More recently, just last year, I ran into Bevin Prince (Bevin, One Tree Hill) at a clothing store and she was kind enough to pose for a picture. Prince is a UNCW alum and was in town for one of those aforementioned “One Tree Hill” conventions. Just last month, however, she moved back to Wilmington and put down some roots by opening Recess, an outdoor cycling center. Meanwhile, Nina Repeta (Bessie, Dawson’s Creek) and Sydney Penny (Josie, Beverly Hills, 90210) both live here, too, and have for years, though I’ve yet to run into either one of them or visit the local restaurant Penny owns.
Then just a few months ago, I found out Nicholas Pryor (Chancellor Arnold, Beverly Hills, 90210) lives just outside Wilmington and I had the honor of visiting his home for an interview. He shared how he loves the quietness of this area, especially compared to Los Angeles, and has relished getting to work on projects filmed locally.
If you had told me two decades ago I’d one day live in Capeside or even a decade ago that I’d one day live in Tree Hill, my teen drama-loving heart never would’ve believed you. Capeside, after all, was meant to be in Massachusetts and a visit to Boston circa 2000 told me the area wasn’t for me. And Tree Hill was in North Carolina and I never saw myself moving to the “South,” either. Frankly, I couldn’t see myself anywhere but Long Island or Chicago. That changed, clearly, and it’s a change I am grateful for (even though I do fear one day I’ll come to regret living states away from my parents and only seeing them sporadically, but that’s another story).
Right before I moved here, Charles Rosin (executive producer, Beverly Hills, 90210), who had worked on “Dawson’s Creek” for a time, asked me, “What’s in Wilmington besides the Ghosts of Teen Soap Past?” Truthfully, I didn’t know. I responded, “Does there need to be something else? Really just going to cross something off my bucket list, and to go on an adventure for a year when I still have the freedom to do so.”
Well, this six-year adventure is still going strong. It has made me feel more connected to “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill” than ever. So, to paraphrase a beloved “One Tree Hill” quote, there is only one Wilmington and it’s my home.
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