When Antique Shopping is about More than the Goods

The childhood home of Amelia Earhart in Atchison, Kansas.

Ever since I was a little girl I have marveled at the architecture and grandeur of Antebellum and Victorian era homes. Being from the South meant that I spent a great deal of time surrounded by some of the best examples of these marvelous structures. Whenever we would visit one of these buildings I remember feeling so small yet at the same time very important and grand. That sense of total awe has never left me. When I can combine the joy of shopping for antiques with the atmosphere of a beautiful old structure I am absolutely ecstatic.

My antique shop concept was designed around a Victorian-era building that began its life as the home to the first doctor in my town (where he also had his office), was later divided into apartments in the 1930s, only to again became a single-family dwelling and ultimately a commercial building. Yet, though all the changes, the integrity and splendor of the old house was still very present. I coveted this particular building from the moment I first walked through the door in the early 1990s. I knew that one day I would have a shop in the space and I planned accordingly.

Finally in August of 2008, I moved in. It was perfect from the start: the bead board, the built-in bookcases and large window seat, rosettes on the door frames and the hardwood floors, worn smooth from a century of footsteps. I felt at home.

Anytime I travel, especially to shop for inventory, I am on the lookout for old buildings and homes, and if the stars are truly in alignment, I will stumble across an antique shop that is located in a century-old building. As I mentioned in my first article for WorthPoint I am known for taking off down lonely, two-lane highways in search of treasures. This includes old buildings.Recently I went on a short, one-day trip to Atchison, Kansas. I had been through Atchison but had never stopped to shop or do the tourist thing. With the extensive history of the town as the head for the Atchison & Topeka Railway and also the birthplace of Amelia Earhart, I assumed that we would find corner-to-corner antique shops. I had my monthly issue of Discover Vintage America in hand to peruse while we ate lunch.

But wait! No antique shops listed. Panic and utter surprise had yet to set in but I was borderline. As we left the restaurant, I picked up a handful of flyers on local shops and much to my amazement only two antique shops were listed.

A room in the Earhart home, displaying her line of Samsonite luggage.

Amelia Earhart

Hubby and I decided to do some sightseeing before we hit the antique shops so we headed to the childhood home of Amelia Earhart. It is a wonderful Victorian home sitting on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River (which was way out of its banks due to rain). While everyone else was looking at the displays, personal items and antique furniture of the day, I was running my hands over the woodwork on the door frames, gawking at the tall ceilings, enchanted by the original lighting and wishing I had a little telephone nook like the one there. Finally, I just sat myself down in a window seat and gazed out the stained-glass window at the raging Missouri River.

Some Trivia: Did you know that Amelia Earhart endorsed a line of luggage for Samsonite and also designed a series of women’s scarves?

Oh sure, I looked at the displays and actually learned something new along the way. Yet my eyes were constantly drawn to the architecture and interior structure of the home. What was it like growing up in this home? How many people have walked these floors? I also got a little teary thinking about what an amazing woman Amelia Earhart was, her tremendous accomplishments for her time, that she was married to a man she loved and it all ended way too soon.

This Queen Anne Victorian home now the Muchnic Art Museum in Atchison.

We then drove along the bluff road and I was bowled over by the beautiful homes, boasting of styles from Antebellum and Victorian to contemporary 1950s-era grand houses and Queen Anne-style mansions. Most of the old homes along the bluff have a Widow’s Walk or lookout of some sort at the highest point of the home. In times past, how many women stood at these high vantage points waiting for their loved ones to come around the river’s bend?

With Amerlia’s childhood home in the rearview mirror, we struck out for the first antique shop on the list. It was in the garage of a home, and looking through the window, I could see some promising goods. But the shop was closed and no one answered the door. Down to one antique shop, we crossed our fingers and toes as we parked the car and walked around the corner to a lovely pedestrian shopping “mall” lined with century-old buildings containing businesses of all types. There it was an antique shop with an open sign.

Kantiques, LLC. is a wonderful antique shop with a warm and welcoming owner, Elaine. She has a wide variety of antiques and collectibles, as well as some of the best-smelling candles I have come across in ages. Elaine’s shop is situated in a building that was built in the 1900s and still has the original tin ceilings and hardwood floors. When you walk in to a shop that is in a historic building, it just oozes ambiance. You can look at history, purchase history and feel the history embracing you.

Inside the Kantiques building in Atchison, Kansas, which was built in the 1900s and still has the original tin ceilings and hardwood floors.

Other than Kantiques, Atchison was pretty much a bust for antiquing, but we hit the jackpot in viewing some amazing architecture from times gone by. On the way back home, we stopped in downtown Leavenworth to visit one of my many favorite antique shops, the Leavenworth Antique Mall which offers three floors of antique and vintage goodness in this multi-dealer antique shop.

The antique mall building was built in the 1850s and from1906 through the 1960s, was a J.C. Penney’s store. Not only does this building still has the original tin ceiling and wood floors, but as you go up the stairs, there is a beautiful brass railing that is brightly polished from more than a century of hands gliding up the banister.

The first time I visited this shop I was floored by the front of the building next door; it’s just a sliver of a building, but sports a lot of vintage colored glass. The door is flanked by amazing Art Deco lights with blue glass set in to heavy metal frames.

As antique dealers and collectors, we handle history every day. We think about who might have owned the various items prior to them falling in to our hands. Why not also be taken by the history of the buildings that we pass on the way to our favorite shop or those we see when visiting a new town? Or, even better, while shopping for the things we love housed in a beautiful old building?

Michelle Staley, who insists that collectors are the happiest people, is an antique collector and dealer. Her shop, My Granny’s Attic Antiques, Collectibles and Memorabilia, is in Lenexa, Kansas.


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