With nearly 1,000 people wanting to see the contents of a nineteenth century stage coach stop and 300 people ready to bid, attendance at the Pope Valley auction September 6th may have set records.
“It could be a record for public attendance at a recent auction,” said Brian Witherell, chief operating officer of Witherell’s Fine Arts and Antiques, the Sacramento-based company that handled the event. “The attendance was huge compared to most auctions today.”
Nostalgia for a bygone era drew people who had to sign waivers releasing liability for injury before they could enter the 1874 building crammed with mementos from a by-gone era.
So many people came for a glimpse of what was essentially a time capsule of an earlier era, Witherell’s not only ran out of waivers, but had to delay the start of the auction by almost an hour.
“I had such a fun time knowing that these items were appreciated,” said Conor McGowan, who organized the contents and handled the actual bidding. “It might have been one of the most enjoyable auctions I have conducted—and certainly the largest.”
Although Pope Valley only is 43 miles from Napa, it was a long trek on back-country roads to get to the crossroads where what was essentially the Pope Valley town center sits.
To be comfortable during the day-long event held in between buildings that had housed a saloon, card room, restaurant, brewery, hotel, general store, card room and post office, people had to bring their own chairs.
People also had to bring their own packing materials.
“We didn’t make it easy, but they came anyway,” said Witherell. “In fact, we under-estimated the intrigue of an old-fashioned, unreserved auction of a landmark building that had been known for decades, even centuries.”
Media coverage also helped.
By the time the auction opened, ABC News Radio and CBS television stories had been picked up by affiliates across the country.
As a result, people said they came from as far away as Southern California and Nevada.
Most of the items had not been touched since 1971 when owner Brad Kilpatrick closed the general store.
Of the 276 lots, the 1924 Model T did the best, selling at $9,600.
Waist-high coffee grinder--$2,580,
Liberty Bell slot machine--$1,800,
Old-fashioned gas pump--$1,620,
Large school bell--$1,440,
Wurlitzer juke box--$1,080.
Even though it had a bullet hole, the ABC Bohemian brewery ad went for $1,020.
Of all the items, Witherell said the advertising signs did the best.
For store owner Kilpatrick, it was not only time to move on, but time to see the items go to a good home.
“It’s time to let other people enjoy them,” said Kilpatrick.
In addition to the contents, the 12-acre property also is on the market for $1,988,800.