Loving my City: McGowan House Artisans and Scott's Furniture Stripping

Old homes speak my love language. There's something about the creaky floors, the charming woodwork, the built-in cabinetry, and the inevitable wood porch that make me feel comfort and put me at ease. 

I happened upon the McGowan House Artisans on a beautiful, humid Iowa morning, and knew I had to go in. 

McGowan House Artisans

I used the front door, though; not the old set of stairs that ladies would use as they stepped out of their carriages in the late 1800s.

I am so happy I stopped in, because I met Jeanne of Jeanne's Soaps. She is one of the owners and artisans, and was so, so welcoming. Right away, she told me about Mrs. McGowan, who lived in this home for 72 years until she passed away and gave her home to the city. Jeanne even took me on a tour of some of the nooks and crannies of the home, including the upstairs apartment and the side porch. The McGowan House has 2 porches - a front porch and a side porch. Both are covered and beautiful.

And inside you can bet I found some cool architechtural things, like old woodwork and incredibly thick brick walls. See:

The McGowan House is home to 39 Iowa artisans who sell their work on the main level of the historic home.

Paintings, photography, jewelry, soaps and body products, woodworking, pottery, sculptures, weaving, and other handcrafts were beautifully displayed.

Right now the road in front of the McGowan House Artisans is under construction. The city is widening the sidewalk and adding matching street lamps to make this block more inviting and walkable in the Uptown Marion District. Because of this construction, the McGowan House Artisans have closed up shop for about 50 days, and will have a grand re-reopening in August.

Before I left, I purchased a really cool round, handmade cutting board with an inlaid pattern (look for it in some of my upcoming recipe posts!) and took one more spin on the outside of the home to take in all the character - like the windows…

… and a flower garden and gazebo…

…and a ramp that looks really nice with the aesthetics of the home.

Scott's Furniture Stripping

After spending about an hour at McGowan House Artisans, I walked a few feet away to Scott's Furniture Stripping to say hi.

Inside Scott has a variety of old furniture, some for sale and some are waiting for their owners to return to pick up.

There are so many cool pieces in this little storefront. I wanted to ask if any of these were for sale, and if he'd like to negotiate on some prices, but I was too shy.

I was able to see a porch swing getting new, rebuilt arms and hardware in the back of the store…

…when I spied this awesome old staircase. I think I squealed with delight and walked right over to peer up the steps.

When he saw that I was interested in the historic features of his building, he told me this building was first a church with a state of the art printing press in the upper level, then it was a forestation, and finally became a furniture refinishing shop in 1924. Scott has owned this business since 2007.

I also learned that Scott has an employee who is a talented woodworker, and often creates custom pieces to finish off furniture. For example, he built the mirror frames for this vanity. The owner purchased the vanity base from an antique shop, and asked for a frame to hold new mirrors.

Much of their work is for businesses in the Amanas and special order pieces. Scott also has a bay for staining and finishing furniture, which keeps the shop clean and safe.

He also has a waterless stripping bay, where he can safely strip wood of its finish and contain the chemical so it doesn't go down the drain. He pays to have a company safely remove and dispose of the waste, rather than add it to the sewer system.

Can you see the difference here?

If you want to get in touch with Scott, he doesn't have social media or a website. He prefers to keep things old school: 560 10th St, Marion, IA 52302 and (319) 377-6411.

These brick streets in Marion, Iowa have some great stories to tell.

I am glad I had a chance to visit with Jeanne and Scott, and learn more about the homes that they operate their businesses from.

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