"Every piece has a story," Diana Markes says. "People stand there transfixed. . . . "
Spokesperson Markes is describing John P. Wilson's Architectural Antique Auction, billed as "the world's largest" with little dissent.
The Wilson show, under way this weekend in the City of Commerce, is "not exactly the sort of auction where you take home a souvenir glass to remember a favorite pub," Markes said. "At the Wilson auction, you take home the whole pub!" (It happened, too, in 1980, when an entire London pub was dismantled, shipped to California, restored and put up for bid. An English developer purchased it, shipped the pub back to London and opened it for business 20 blocks from its original site.)
This year, buyers may bid on the J. P. Morgan's personal railroad car; historic stone gates to the marketplace in Avignon, France; entire paneled rooms from Victorian mansions back east; an original copper still from Cognac, France; a complete English chemist shop (forerunner of the drugstore); fountain statues; stained-glass windows--whatever, in fact, Wilson and his crew of "conservationists" could rescue from bulldozers and wrecking balls.
Site is 2220 Gaspar Ave.; hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. both today and Sunday ("homeowners day," with smaller lots up for bid). As one might expect, admission is not cheap--$250 per person today ($50 on Sunday) to be applied toward purchase--but "I've never known anyone to go home with his deposit hanging," Markes insists. Further, unless a bidder has registered, (213) 726-0073, entry today is not permitted without a refundable deposit of $10,000 (no deposit necessary on Sunday). For some, it's worth it. Says Markes: "There's an energy and pace to the auction that you won't find anywhere else in the world."