2014 – Chicago Now – “Indiana Jones on the north side of Chicago a.k.a. Architectural Artifacts, Inc.”

A section of the ornate interior of an early twentieth century jewelry store

At 4325 N. Ravenswood in the great city that grew out of a little fort is a place that transports you not only to a by-gone era of Chicago but to that of America and the World!

When I had told a friend that I wanted to commit myself full-time to Chicago area history and research after leaving criminal investigative work back in 2005 he said that it was like I was sort of becoming a modern day “Indiana Jones”.   It actually made me feel pretty cool. It wasn’t until yesterday that I actually think I met a young Dr. Jones.

One of my favorite topics of Chicago history (and I have many) is the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. A member of one of my facebook groups, Beth Walsh, gave me the heads up that a couple of original lamp posts from the “White City” were actually going on the auction block at a place called Architectural Artifacts, Inc. in the North Center neighborhood.

I was a little embarrassed to say I had never heard of the place so my wife and I took an unplanned trip and went on a little urban adventure.

It was a little after noon and didn’t take long to get there and really from the outside it appears to be an industrial warehouse but when we walked inside..OMG! The auction had started at 10am and I had approached the first person I came to and inquired about the lamp posts. I saw that there was an outside area and out of the corner of my eye I caught the edge of what I was looking for. We were told that we were welcome to look around at whatever we liked.

An original lamp post from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

As I was admiring these giant relics of the Columbian Expo, (yes even the lamp posts are awe-inspiring) the owner, Stuart Grannen, approached us and asked us if we had any questions. Of course I didn’t know he was the owner at this point and I was sharing stories of the Expo and of Chicago history and he started showing us around to other relics and artifacts that he had collected and you could really tell that this guy had a passion for history and architecture. It was like a couple of kids in a candy store!

He was mentioning a finial that he had acquired from the pre-fire Chicago City Hall and Courthouse and I mentioned how there were supposed to be about a half dozen of these limestone finials floating around and I had found one in Wilder Park in Elmhurst and literally walked into one in Lincoln Park and sure enough as we walked upstairs I could see it from a distance and knew I had found number three only this one was for sale!

One of the finials from the Chicago City Hall and Courthouse from before the Great Fire of 1871.

As he talked to my wife and I about his trips overseas and around the country on his quests for artifacts I felt like I was actually talking to a modern day Indiana Jones with about twice the passion and energy.

The building is about 80,000 square feet of inspiration! As my wife was looking at all of the pieces explaining how she planned on using them in the imaginary house in which we lived, I was looking at everything wondering where they all came from and wanting to investigate the history of every item. It is definitely not the place for a history fanatic with attention deficit disorder.

Stained Glass and exterior decoration

There were obviously the Columbian Expo lamp posts and the finial from the Chicago courthouse but the place was filled with stained glass, antique doors, theater seats, fireplace mantels, chandeliers, gates, columns, artwork, furniture, 20 foot drill bits, pharmacy artifacts, printing artifacts, antique decorative accents from the inside and outside of historic buildings, 1930’s art-deco style horoscope vending machine that easily could have found its way out of the 1933 Century of Progress Fair, a temple altar from Burma, a bar from Buenos Aires, 20 foot neon business signs, automobiles, the inside carved wooden pavilion from an early twentieth century jewelry store, a 35 foot long intricately carved teak wall from Bali, and a hamburger that was about 8 feet in diameter just to name a few.

This auction is their 2nd Annual Auction starting yesterday and running through tomorrow, May 4th.

If you love architecture, history and inspiration you owe it to yourself to visit this hidden gem of Chicago.

The business is open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm. For more information visit their website at www.ArchitecturalArtifacts.com or call them at 773.348.0622