MACOMB — Greek mythology in the form of the nine muses has lent inspiration to one antique store in the heart of Macomb’s historic district.
The muses symbolize literature, science and the arts, all of which are represented by the objects one can find at Parnassus Antiques & Curios, 127 N. Randolph St. in Macomb.
Greek mythology and culture are reflected throughout the store, from the welcome sign depicting the Greek philosopher Diogenes to the store’s motto: “Where the muses dwell…and the deals are swell!”
Proprietor John Graham, who owns the building and the store along with his wife Kazue, said he opened the store in 2013 after retiring from his 20-year position at the Western Illinois University Art Gallery. The building, previously owned by the Harris family, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Graham said the space had once been the law offices of the Harris family and contained many shelves of books. A bookshelf still remains near the front window, full of duplicates the previous family no longer wanted or needed.
The store specializes in 19th- and 20th-century local decorative art, from glassware to furnishings. But it also holds items of historical interest, such as deeds and maps dating back to the earliest years of the region, when the area – along with three-quarters of what is now Illinois – was all part of Madison County.
Graham proudly pulled out a land deed from 1818, which he plans to feature at the state bicentennial. It was made out to a private in the War of 1812 as part of the military land grant given to soldiers after the war. The private had signed the deed with an “X” – his mark, in lieu of a signature.
When asked how he and Kazue find items to sell, Graham suddenly turned cryptic.
“That’s like telling where the fishing holes are. I’m not telling,” he said with a small smile.
In addition to trying to find unique items for people to muse over, the Grahams offer free or low-cost classes about local history and collecting, caring for and displaying antiques through the Learning is Forever (L.I.F.E.) community education program supported by WIU.
They choose what to sell based on what items seem the most interesting or unique to them because “there’s no way to know for sure what people want,” Graham said.
As he displayed an engraved wood plate of “The Strawberry Girl” by Pierre Louis Deconinck, he admitted he initially finds it difficult to put a price on some items because they’re “just too cool,” he said.
“But eventually we figure out a price,” he added.
Parnassus Antiques & Curios is open from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and by appointment. For more information, call (309) 836-MUSE (6873) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.