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Stationery, antiques fill oldest house

MOLINE -- If only the two-story brick square could talk.

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Gary Krambeck

The Wilson House Stationers is the latest occupant of Molines oldest standing house, built 140 years ago at 604 21st St.

The trail of lives is 140 years long in the Moline house at 604 21st St. The shuttered antique, now known as Wilson House Stationers, is the city's oldest home.

Built in 1858, the modest-sized house once sheltered nearly a dozen children and four adults. In 1864, the Wilson family bought the home from the original owners. When the lean economic years of the late 1800s hit the Quad-Cities, the eight-member Wilson family opened its doors to another family of seven.

Walking through the maze of rooms today, it is a struggle to imagine more than a few people living comfortably in the humble quarters. It is just as challenging to imagine the elderly Wilsons of the mid-1900s managing the steep, narrow staircase.

One of the six Wilson children born at the homestead lived there for nearly 100 years. Mary Wilson, a teacher at nearby Ericsson Elementary School, lived in the home until she died in her mid-90s. She would detect very few changes in the house today.

``There have been no structural changes to the house,'' current owner Barbara Trimble said. ``The only thing different since the house was built is the porch and the bathroom, which was added when indoor plumbing came.''

Ms. Trimble said her husband, Eric Trimble, was not sure what he would do with the historic homestead when he bought it five years ago. The idea for a stationery shop was inspired by an out-of-town merchandise show.

The Trimbles were taking a lunch break during a Las Angeles gift show when they agreed paper and gifts would make appropriate residents of the old landmark.

``By the time we finished lunch, we had the name,'' Ms. Trimble said.

Wilson House Stationers opened in 1995. Like the Wilson family, the specialty shop has grown.

``We've been very pleased,'' Ms. Trimble said. ``We had a very good year last year, and we've started out 1998 even better.''

In addition to an expanding inventory, Ms. Trimble said, a growing reputation as wedding planners has boosted the Wilson House business. In-house printing and a popularity comeback in personalized paper products also have fed the business.

Cruising the classic, conservative shop will introduce customers to alphabet baby showers and stock-the-bar wedding showers. New parents can have their babies' names printed on baby-shower thank-you cards.

The Trimbles now plan to add antiques to the Wilson House mix.

``We're taking a buying trip to England,'' Ms. Trimble said. ``Antiques are just so fitting for the house.

``We feel we have done something good with the house,'' she said. ``It has its character, and it's a quality shop.''

-- By Barb Ickes (January 26, 1998)

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