Legend of AAI
Stuart Grannen, Founder
Like most legends, Stuart’s story only gets richer with the telling — and the amazing part is, it’s all true.
A wayward youth with an eye for wonderful old stuff (he bought his first architectural find, a stained glass window from a Baptist church, at age 7) Stuart started out perusing the aisles of New Jersey antique stores with his parents, then headed to college in Knoxville, Tenn., where he studied archaeology and became acquainted with the antiques (and a few of the bars) of the American South.
In 1981, when a wide swath of homes were torn down to make way for construction of the Knoxville World’s Fair, Stuart managed to buy an enormous quantity of artifacts; old mantlepieces, stained glass — everything he could save. He stored it all in warehouses and barns, and quickly sold it to a New Orleans antique dealer, who promptly hired him.
In his late 20s, Stuart found himself part owner of an architectural resale company in Minneapolis, where the artifacts were plentiful but the winters were too damn cold. He headed back south, to Nashville, where he continued to discover and recover all that he could from buildings headed for demolition, selling them to an ever-widening customer base seeking the historic, the eccentric and the truly original for their own spaces.
Finding that Chicago was a handy launching pad for his forays into far-flung corners in search of artifacts — and was also a city in the midst of a wave of demolition — Stuart relocated his business to the city in 1987. He set up shop in an old factory building in the city’s northside Ravenswood neighborhood and flung open the doors on a wonderland of architectural treasures. The love child of an antiques store, a museum and a curiosity shop (complete with a swashbuckling proprietor) Architectural Artifacts quickly became a place of fascination for the generations of Chicagoans who wandered through. Over the years, Stuart cemented his reputation as one of the world’s premiere dealers of architectural antiques and one of a rarefied group who helped rescue some of the city’s lost architectural heritage.
When Architectural Artifacts closed its doors with a no-holds-barred auction in 2018, the story arc was far from complete. Architectural Artifacts Inc. opened its doors in a reclaimed school building in 2022, offering an all-new, radical assortment of the stuff Stuart started collecting as soon as the old place closed. The new concept allows him to do what he does best: travel the world in search of amazing finds and amazing stories, and share them with customers, collectors and all those who care to wander.