- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) - Antiques and Estates, on Conception Street between Dauphin and Conti streets in downtown Mobile, is a treasure-hunter’s paradise, filled with remnants of the past. Each item for sale surely has a story to tell, and the shop’s owner, Bill Appling, doesn’t necessarily know all of them.

But for each item whose tag is marked “Magee Farm,” Appling does know a story - or at least he knows where it came from.

Ben George, the Saraland veterinarian who owns the historic Magee Farm property, located at the intersection of U.S. 45 and Ala. 158 in Kushla, recently asked Appling to sell much of the contents of the Creole cottage-style farmhouse. George bought the property in 2005, and ran it as a history museum from 2007 to 2010.

But now, “he’s trying to move on,” Appling explained. “He’s tired. He’s been working on this since the early 2000s, and it just didn’t work. It didn’t catch on.”

Appling called Magee Farm “the Oakleigh of north Mobile County.” ”This house is so important,” he said. “It’s just a shame they can’t get anyone interested in it.”

Following the death of Jacob Magee, who built the house in 1848, Magee Farm was sold to the Sturtevant family in 1898, Appling said. Many of the artifacts displayed throughout the two-story home are from the Civil War era, and almost all of them belonged to the Sturtevants. The last surviving member of that family, Margaret Sturtevant, died in 2004, at age 93.

Appling found a photo in a box in the attic of Margaret sitting in her dining room in 1952. Copies of the photo are used to decorate some of the Magee Farm items in his downtown store.

“I consider myself very lucky to be chosen to do this for them,” Appling said. He is charged with selling some 1,000 pieces from the home, he estimated, including “a lot of historic furnishings, china and artwork that’s been in the house for a hundred years,” he said. “Some of the items have never been outside the house.”

He said there are about 35 pieces of furniture to be sold, as well as china, glassware, a couple hundred books, linens and doilies - “a lot of items that normally don’t surface,” he said. Appling is still unwrapping and cleaning items to display in his shop.

“A typical estate sale is not really the way to do this,” he said. “These pieces are significant for the city and the county. They’re not for a yard sale.”

The oldest piece in the collection - and also the most expensive, at $3,800 - is a Revolutionary War-era oil painting of Charles Morse, the great-grandfather of Samuel Morse, who invented Morse Code.

Several paintings of Magee Farm by Helen S. Tisdale, Margaret’s sister, are also offered for sale, as well as a colorful quilt in a log cabin pattern that dates to the 1870s.

Appling said he had never been inside the house at Magee Farm before being contacted by George. “For me, being in the business, a museum full of antiques is like my shop, or my house. It’s not the event it should be.”

Appling grew up in downtown Mobile, where his father first went into business in 1935. His dad owned the Gaslight Restaurant, the Esquire House gentlemen’s club and the somewhat notorious 55 Club, he said. His family has owned the property across Joachim Street from the Saenger Theatre, he said, since 1954. Appling has run the Joachim Street Antique Mall for the past five years and opened Antiques and Estates in March of this year.

In about a month, he plans to hold an estate sale in the showroom next door to his shop. “A lot of people are looking for some little thing, a cup and saucer or a doily,” he said. “This allows people to have a little bit of the memory of Magee Farm. The provenance of this stuff is not out there more than once in a lifetime.”

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