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Siena Center hundreds of years of treasures estate sale

Siena Center-Racine WisconsinKateWhen Pam published the story of the Siena Center’s estate sale of the year last Thursday, I could tell she wished that she could drop in and check it out. Unfortunately for Pam, the drive was a bit too far. For me, it was right down the street. When I arrived at the sale, I was expecting to see a lot of great retro stuff — but that’s not all I found…

I arrived at the Siena Center exactly five minutes before the doors opened — stumbling toward the waiting crowd as I gawked at the midcentury architecture of the center itself. Before the doors opened, I chatted briefly with Josh, one of the kind employees of ATR Estate Sales, and he told me that that the crowd of 60 people anxiously awaiting entrance into the treasure trove of goodies was rather small for a sale of this magnitude. Josh speculated that the small crowd size was due to the sale opening on a Friday instead of a Saturday. What is the usual crowd for a sale of this size according to Josh? About 500 — Yikes!

Siena Center railing Racine WI

As I stood waiting my turn to enter, I continued to notice the interesting details of the center itself. Even the railings on the front steps matched the geometric shapes on the building — in fact — this shape was repeated nearly everywhere throughout the center. The railings, the windows, the pass-through niches in the wall and likely through the rest of the building.

Siena Center Racine WI stairwellAbove: Entryway and stairwell to lower auditorium, Siena Center, Racine, WI.

Then it was time to enter the sale itself. By the time I got into the auditorium (person number 58 of 60), many of the advertised midcentury pieces were sold already!

Siena Center sale Racine, WIAbove: Siena Center auditorium packed with stuff during hundreds-of-years-of-treasures estate sale.

turquoise Thonet ChairAbove: I didn’t even get to see what they were asking for these turquoise Thonet chairs, they were already sold and being carried off as I entered the auditorium.

salon chairAbove: Retro salon chair – sold, retro green foot stool – sold.

thonet chairsAbove: Thonet Chairs for miles!

thonet chairsAbove: This particular style of Thonet chair had Pam and me both drooling just a little bit. By the time I made it over to look at these chairs, one guy had claimed all of the ones with green cushions. I thought about bringing one home with me, but they were $80-$140 each depending on condition, and I really didn’t have a spot to put one, so I passed.

thonet chairsAbove: I found it quite interesting that there were light and dark wood versions of the same chair.

As I walked the aisles of furniture, I noticed that most of the items that had sold right away when the doors opened were midcentury furniture pieces — many of the Thonet chairs, the salon chair, retro footstools — it seems that retro pieces were a big draw for this particular crowd. As time passed though, I noticed people filling up their arms with all sorts of treasures. The majority of the items at this sale were furniture pieces, though there were quite a few retro smalls hanging around.

retro binocularsAbove: Retro binoculars. I love the packaging!

retro pink deep fryerAbove: A retro pink deep fryer…every girl’s dream?

retro dishes and coffee caraffes

retro glassesAbove: There were plenty of cool midcentury glasses and small dishes to be had.

what are theseAbove: I’m not sure what these are exactly, but they sure do look neat. Anyone have any ideas?

aqua St. Charles CabinetsI made my way to the back of the auditorium, where these St. Charles aqua cabinets were hiding. I counted 15 upper cabinets, 10 lower door cabinets and 6 drawers overall. They were priced at $1,500, but were taking bids. When I left the sale, they hadn’t yet sold. They were a lovely shade of aqua and in pretty good condition overall.

St. Charles metal cabinetsUnfortunately, the countertop on the second half of the lower cabinets had a bumped out piece, which might make it harder to use the original laminate counters — which were a lovely matching aqua with little gold flecks.

counter closeupAbove: Laminate countertops on St. Charles kitchen cabinets.

counter pointAbove: The end of the laminate countertops on this section of cabinets came to a sharp angle.

retro kohler sinkAbove: My favorite part of the kitchen set were the handles on the sink.

Kohler retro sink handleAbove: Retro Kohler sink handle.

aqua chairsAbove: These aqua plastic chairs matched the St. Charles kitchen cabinets perfectly!

Siena Center ladies roomAbove: Siena Center Ladies room waiting area.

Siena Center BathroomOn my way out, I stopped into the ladies room briefly to investigate. Surely I should see if it was as retro as the rest of the building — and sure enough, a kidney shaped table, huge retro lamp and tons of blue tiles awaited me.

Surprisingly, I left the sale only with the photos on my camera — but of course I was tempted more than a few times to bring something home.

On the way out I asked a few of the Siena Center Security guards (which I suspect were the sisters themselves) if they knew what year the center was built. After some deliberation, they agreed that it was likely built in 1962 — same year as my retro ranch house! No wonder I liked the building so much!

Siena Center sign - two viewsMy favorite detail of all was the sign at the very end of the long drive that leads to the Siena Center. It can be viewed from several angles and reads as both a sculpture and a sign. Too bad they didn’t have a spare one to sell me. I would have loved to use it as garden art!

Did you attend the sale at the Siena Center?
What treasures did you bring home?

  1. Ada says:

    My god what a lovely sale AND building!!! I’m just in absolute awe! I actually drooled over those counters! Even the smalls are gorg beyond belief! Love those glasses! And that FRYER!!! Wow!! Why, oh, why do we never have sales like this anywhere near where I live??? Instead, I’m stuck here with nothing but good ole boy farm tools and primitives being sold by the offspring of Elmer Fudd and Mel Tillis. Not fair!

  2. Bronwen says:

    One of the sisters told me that as the population of nuns ages and dwindles they are renovating many convents, including the Siena Center, into assisted living centers and nursing homes.

  3. Carole says:

    Wow, what a cool event! Love those turquoise chairs. You’ve already got an answer, but the things with the spikes are indeed candle holders. The spikes were to hold the candles in place. Something that pillar holders have lost through the years, no doubt due to injury.

  4. sara says:

    WOW!!! my heart about stopped at the sight of that stairwell! thanks for the eye candy Kate!!!

  5. Chutti says:

    Thanks for sharing pics of the goodies and building.
    Sounds like the good ol days for ridiculously cheap sale prices are gone.
    But that building was swell-definitely has that Racine look.
    I love that you captured the shape echoed everywhere. The outdoor sign was the best, though.

    Hmmm. It’s true that on the west coast many of these church owned properties are getting converted to some kind of elder care facilities. Can’t be too many of those, I suspect.
    I have experience with one that was built as a convent rest home in the 1960’s. If they ever cleared that place out, there would be a fiesta of wild stuff. I’m thinking in particular of their little hair salon room. Very pink and turquoise.

  6. duki says:

    WoW! What a Breathtaking building….Yummy! Speaking of which…I think those aluminum things with the spikes would be better put to use as a cheese-ball holder and the Ritz crackers could go on the bottom part.

  7. Robyn says:

    Just an idea for folks who run across those “bump outs” in old counter tops as was seen with the kitchen cabinets. Generally the idea is to keep them in place but make them into a base or pedestal I have run across lots of these, and what I’ve always thought of doing with them is utilize that as a base for a small, custom made spice cabinet that could cover that square hole and go up to the bottom of the upper cabinets if you want. they could be made from painted wood or perhaps even sheet metal if you know of someone who can work with it. That metal counter edge would just dress it up under the little cabinet. Another idea would be to fill the hole with a painted wood insert (perhaps painted to match the counter design or better yet re-using a section of matching counter top if you had some left over). You could put something decorative on it like a small flower vase or statue. In addition to that idea I can also see a series of glass shelves, cut to just slightly smaller than the size of the filled hole and have those going up over the area to create a small display area. That way you could sit something on your new “base” and things above it on the glass shelves. This idea might work really well for those that have the bump-outs in the corner where a duct or some wall space was cut into the counter area.

  8. Michael says:

    Thanks for the terrific tour/inventory. The building itself is so cool I might have forgotten to rush right to the chattels for sale had I been there!

    Everything looked so pristine– I mean, come on… an estate sale by nuns? Does it get any better than that?!

  9. Betty Roth says:

    As if La. wasn’t already where I dream of living some day, now you’ve gone and made me want to shop there! It’s true, some parts of the country don’t know what treasures they’re throwing out in the garbage. Hope you find a bunch!

  10. Brenda says:

    It would’ve been a 6 hr drive for me and the soonest I would have been there was Saturday, so I’m actually glad that most/all of the mid century stuff was gone by then – that way I don’t have to feel guilty about not getting there.
    Also – as an intern architect with a particular love for mid century buildings, THANK YOU so much for taking and posting so many building photos. That entry sign is fantastic. And the details, like that stair railing, is what changes a forgettable building into great!

  11. Just another Pam says:

    Don’t give up hope, Ada. The very first wild 70’s thing I bought was in a place three miles north of Nowhere at a dairy farm….it came along with some chenille spreads I’d bid on. Catalogue shopping did get things to unexpected places.

  12. Nancy says:

    My cousin Melanie and I attended this sale thanks to the announcement on Retro Renovation. We, too, were in awe of the building and how the railings, windows, doors and stairwell all shared the same retro design. We are in the picture of the crowd, sitting on a raised flower bed to the right. We each walked away with a harvest gold Thonet chair. Melanie also snagged one of the pink “Thonet chairs for miles!” chairs. I left with 4 of the aqua colored chairs that matched the kitchen cabinetry.
    We were #’s 45 and 46 and much of the stuff was already designated as sold when we got in, a mere 5 or so minutes after the first group of people were let in.

  13. Josh says:

    Kate,
    Thanks for stopping in, it’s nice to see folks appreciate the items.
    Part way through the day, the sisters decided to let go of a few more items, and we ended up wheeling in another half dozen of the turquoise chairs, as well as two matching Thonet couches! (They didn’t last long) I wish someone had gotten some photos of them.

  14. heidi says:

    I have those Kohler handles on the sink in our half bath. I love them too! We have a 1958 ranch. Thank you for taking photo’s of your visit. I would have loved to have been there!

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