New York - Buying a new home, especially an older one, can come with a variety of pitfalls. However, for one lucky New Yorker it also came with a surprise win - behind ceiling-panel number three - which led straight to the attic.
For David Whitcomb, who bought the old century-home in Geneva, New York, last year with plans to convert the dilapidated building into a law firm and upper floor rental unit, the find came as nothing short of a huge surprise.
Whitcomb related that while he was giving a friend a tour of his new purchase, he noticed a drop-down ceiling had deteriorated and was showing floorboards and rafters above it. He said he had no idea that there was a room above it, "It wasn’t in the paperwork," he said, "and we didn’t do an inspection because we knew the building needed to be renovated."
After some initial scrambling onto chairs, he and his friend managed to locate the entrance to the attic overhead (which they later determined had been sealed off for more than a hundred years), and discovered a virtual treasure trove of antiques, photographs and paintings that appeared to be the private collection of noted photographer James Ellery Hale. Whitcomb believes the attic was used by Hale as a studio, and says that so far he's uncovered more than a thousand antiques dating back over a hundred years, including an original print of the early feminist icon Susan B. Anthony, which is the same as that currently hanging in the Library of Congress. Other finds included furniture, photography equipment, decorative arts items, and a number of early twentieth-century portraits.
Whitcomb, an avid antique hunter himself said, "Everyone hopes to find treasure someday, and we actually did... it's incredible to think about."
After realizing what he'd come across, Whitcomb brought in photography and history experts to examine and confirm many of the items. An adjacent building had caught fire during the 1980s, and according to Whitcomb, the attic was not only full of dust, but ash as well from the neighboring blaze, which made cleaning the pieces and bringing them back to their former glory painstaking work.
Finally, after conferring with experts and authenticating the historical items, Whitcomb decided it was time to sell, and reached out to One Source Auctions to conduct the online sale. A representative from the auction house has indicated that the sale is anticipated to take place later this fall, with final tallies for the collection expected to reach well into the low six-figures.
For the rest of us, it's just another reminder of why every nook-and-cranny probably deserves a second look!
- AIA Staff Writers
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