VICTORIAN GEMS

April 01, 2003 11:00 pm
ANTIQUES WITHIN: Lois and Don Cattanach have moved their business, called Grandma's Attic, to the Wise house in Elgin. The Cattanachs bought the Victorian-style house from Clifford and Judy Tschirgi. (The Observer/RAY LINKER).
ANTIQUES WITHIN: Lois and Don Cattanach have moved their business, called Grandma's Attic, to the Wise house in Elgin. The Cattanachs bought the Victorian-style house from Clifford and Judy Tschirgi. (The Observer/RAY LINKER).

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

ELGIN — Since they bought the old Victorian house on Division Street in Elgin, Don and Lois Cattanach have been busy fixing it up to operate as an antique business.

Their opening was Tuesday.

They have done a lot but still have a good ways to go before getting the house and grounds in the shape they want it.

"We eventually want to have an upstairs gallery for artwork," said Don. Now the stairway is roped off and he still has to refinish the banisters. Landscaping and improved parking spaces are on his agenda.

But there is plenty of antique furniture, glassware and other period items for sale in the various rooms downstairs.

"We find and buy what we think we can sell," Don said.

Lois said, "It's mostly Victorian and vintage pieces, from the 1800s and early 1900s."

The couple operated their business, called Grandma's Attic, a few blocks away on Eighth Street for five years before buying the two-story house.

The house — known by some as the Wise house, after one of the owners, Foster and Mildred Wise — was built by Robert C. and Hattie Mays.

The Cattanachs bought it from Clifford and Judy Tschirgi, who owned it for 14 years, in August and have been working on fixing it up as a business place since then.

They are only the sixth owners of the 3,000-square-foot house, build mainly of brick.

"It's a very soft brick, easy to drill into," Don said. "There used to be four brickyards in Elgin, and we've heard that these bricks came from one of those yards."

One of the items on display is a copy of the front page of the July 22, 1915, Elgin Recorder, which has a story of the death of Robert Mays in an automobile accident outside town.

Another item sure to draw the curious as well as antique afficionados is an old hand organ sitting just inside the front door.

"It's only one of six left," Lois said. "It was an a Navy ship. The age is unknown but they were made from 1865 to 1926. There is one in the Carnegie Museum made in 1865. We have only two wooden rollers (which make the tune like a player piano when cranked). Others on the ship were thrown overboard to see if they would float. They did."

The Cattanachs have put in new carpeting over most of the downstairs area and are working on other improvements, including remodeling a downstairs bath, turning an area that was used for storing wood into a laundry and utility room. They have installed a gas fireplace and plan to make improvements in what was the kitchen.

"We would like people to come and see the old, historical house whether or not they are interested in antiques," Lois said.

Their hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and closed Sunday and Monday. They can be reached by phone at 437-7012 or 7