The nation’s largest and most fascinating antique store, Architectural Artifacts, Inc. is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a three-day auction, Friday, April 5th, Saturday, April 6th and Sunday, April 7th, beginning at 10 a.m. The extravaganza will include items from carved fireplaces to antique saloon bars to vintage chandeliers to fun, frivolous and funky items that range in price from $5 to $100,000. The festive event will also include entertainment and a variety of food and wine will take place at 4325 N. Ravenswood Ave, on a 2000 plus-lot, which is within Chicago’s historic Ravenswood neighborhood. The 80,000-square-foot building/showroom dates from the early 1900’s (originally the Boye Knitting Company, the world’s largest manufacturer of knitting needles). One-of-a-kind items have been carefully selected from over 10,000 elegant and intriguing treasures in the gallery. Attendees will find items that include fireplaces to antique saloon bars to vintage chandeliers to fun, frivolous and funky items, ranging in price from $5 to $100,000.
The auction will be called by two of the area’s leading auctioneering services. Donley Auction Services is internationally recognized among collectibles' experts with over 40 years of experience and knowledge in the field of appraising, buying and selling antiques. In addition, the family owned business in Valparaiso, Indiana, Kraft Auction Services is a full service auction company. President Jonathan Kraft brings brings a wealth of knowledge in selling antiques, collectibles, personal property, and collector automobiles, and specialty sales.
On March 27th I spoke with the nation’s leading treasurologist, Stuart Grannen who founded Architectural Artifacts, Inc. and has been collecting, displaying and selling antiques and artifacts from around the world since 1987. He has been playing lost and found with high quality antiques and architectural elements for over 45 years and traveling the world to find terracotta tiles, stained-glass doors, Frank Lloyd Wright windows and once even acquired the 22-foot-tall columns from the old Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
B.K, How did you happen to establish “Architectural Artifacts”?
Stuart explained that after having had businesses in place such as New Orleans, Minneapolis and elsewhere, he came to Chicago on a buying trip. “I did a deal in Chicago and decided to stay. There were lots of things to buy”.
B.K What was your vision for “Architectural Artifacts”?
The question was humorous to him because, “I never had a vision for a store but I had a huge warehouse and in 1987 I decided to open it to the public. It evolved organically, despite myself”.
B.K. What was the most unusual item you acquired?
One of the first acquisitions that Stuart made was Chicago’s Block 37. He obtained the rights to the buildings that were being torn down at the time that included the United Artists Theatre, Stop’n Shop, The office building where Clarence Darrow had worked, the Woods Theatre and more. “ They were important buildings. It was a 6 month project and I learned the way Chicago really works.”
B.K. What are the most enjoyable and rewarding parts of your work?
Stuart offered a two-part answer. “I like saving things that would otherwise be destroyed”, and, “I like seeing things used in new and different ways, not for their original purpose. These objects become pieces of art. I was the first one to use reclaimed architectural items as art”. He also said, ”I’ve met people from paupers to princes, and all of them appreciate beauty”.
B.K. What unexpected stumbling blocks did you encounter in your quest for architectural antiques?
“Really none because it was a learn as you go, shoot from the hip, situation. I have been surprised at my own energy and passion and how far I was able to go to save pieces. I’ve even used clothing at times to protect pieces when the usual blankets were all used and climbed to heights that I never thought I would.”
B.K. What was your most memorable or unusual experience?
Stuarts’s initial reaction was that there were so many it was hard to find one. He began to tell his story of the removal of the old Granada Theatre and the tunnels below, and then he remembered an even more remarkable experience when he saw a ghost.
In Rye, New York in Westchester County there was a successful businessman “robber baron” who once owned an amazingly beautiful mansion, the best that Stuart has ever seen. When the mansion was scheduled for removal so the land could be used for a housing development, Stuart bought the rights to the materials and items that were to be removed. He and a crew of workmen remained on the property, staying in various bedrooms while the work progressed.
The house had an interesting history. Old man “Ahrendt” who built the mansion had an illegitimate son who ended up living in Europe. Later, he had a legitimate daughter who, at the proper age, did the “Grand European Tour”. She fell in love and returned to be married in the mansion. Alas, her fiancé turned out to be the illegitimate son. No marriage. She hanged herself.
It was ninety years later when Stuart and his crew came to breakfast one morning and were very silent at first. Later when they talked, each of them had seen the ghost of the “bride” in a different place, a different angle. And Stuart said, “I don’t even believe in ghosts”.
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Architectural Artifacts, Inc. is a world of lost treasures from original fireplace mantels, stained and beveled glass, period lighting, garden furnishings, cast and wrought iron, gargoyles and griffins, carved stone, church artifacts, decorative tile, American and European furniture, and industrial furnishings. For more information, visit www.architecturalartifacts.com or call (773) 348-0622.