WADENA, Minn. — Any place as packed with antiques as this — displayed in multiple collections that fill two giant rooms — is worth a look-see.
Visitors to Grandpa's Place are always wide-eyed at the massive amount of antiques there. The private collection, owned by Rich and Carol Taggart of Wadena, Minnesota, looks something like a museum, with multiple displays set up in themed areas that resemble a Western saloon, soda fountain, old jail and blacksmith shop. A Coca-Cola display overlaps with neighboring boating items and antique cars, which leads to a stagecoach, and then a dental chair, shoe repair station and kitchen items. Mixed in with all that is an array of vintage gas signs, radios, kitchen appliances, movie memorabilia and machines.
One sign there reads, funnily enough, “Grandpas are just antique little boys."
The Taggarts have been working on their collection since 1998, sometimes with the help of other family members like their four sons and about 30 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“I just enjoy antiques," Rich Taggart says, "because they bring back the memories of the old days."
"We’ll put the jukebox on and it’s the old 50s music that we listen to back when we was young and we have a great evening just sitting out there."
— Rich Taggart
It all began with a relatively simple search for one thing: a Seeburg jukebox. Taggart purchased one he found in a jukebox magazine, and that was that. A whole new hobby evolved, and Grandpa's Place was born.
“We fell in love with it, and so I just started buying some antiques and I didn’t really care what the item was," he recalls. "If it looked good to me, I just ended up buying it, and we just kept putting it in a pile ... And finally one day we decided, 'This is no good. We want to display this.'"
The items come from all over and represent eras from the mid-1800s through 1960s. For over 20 years now, the Taggarts have traveled to Chicago for a large auction in the fall where they usually buy three or four items. One of those on display in their yard is an 1880 hearse with candle lanterns. They also have items from Minnesota, Kentucky, Ohio, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin and Florida.
Some of the pieces come from the different areas where their sons live, as those four are involved in curating the collection and building the displays. Carol’s nephew, Quentin Johns, says he's to blame for some of the items, too, and he's also helped with projects such as sandblasting and painting gas pumps and building the saloon. The jail, with cast iron bars from Wadena’s jail, was built by the Taggarts' grandsons, Kyle and Dylan. Their next project is a blacksmith shop.
“My sons are always looking, and every once in awhile they’ll send to me on their phones, ‘Would you like this? Would you like that?’ And sometimes it’s 'No' and sometimes 'Yes, I would like that very much,'" Carol Taggart says. “So they help me find a lot of this stuff ... Hard for one guy to do all this; he needs help from somebody to do it.”
The family recently came together at Grandpa's Place for Rich’s mom’s 103rd birthday. Rich says the place evoked plenty of memories for his mom, and she had one of her best days in years.
“When she came that day, it’s like she clicked and was years younger. It was unbelievable. She had so much fun, giggling, laughing,” he says. “It was so awesome seeing my mom like that.”
He is thankful for his and Carol's “great family” that supports their collection. But even when the whole family's not there, the couple still enjoys the place.
“Once in awhile we’ll go out there and we’ll have supper out there, just Carol and I, and we’ll put the jukebox on and it’s the old '50s music that we listened to back when we was young, and we have a great evening just sitting out there doing not a darn thing, just having supper, and you can’t beat that," Taggart says. "I enjoy that so much."
Once a year, the couple invites community members out to see the antiques at a hog roast, with 650 dessert bars prepared by Carol. The event is a welcome and enjoyable one for both the Taggarts and the attendees. There are even some antique toys available for play in the yard.
People are also welcome to stop by the building throughout the year, by appointment. The Taggarts typically show the building about once a week.
“We get quite a few visitors and we never charge for nothing,” Taggart says.
People who go to Grandpa's Place are sure to see all sorts of interesting things. One of the more easily-spotted antiques is a wooden tank above the building. It reads, “Wadena, MN Elevation 1,352.” The tank originally came from a 100-year-old barn near St. Cloud, Minnesota, and the Taggarts hope to add a pipe to make it look like a steam engine filling station.
The old barns, work horses and wagons are another display of note, and they're some of Johns' favorite items.
“Some of the old barns had … this chain hoist that ran through the barn so you could slide a great big bucket — and it was for cleaning out the stalls — but then you could just slide that all the way to the end of the barn and dump it, like into a manure spreader,” Johns says. “(The) different ways that they did things is interesting to me.”
Stall-cleaning is a job Johns found fun in his many summers at his grandpa’s farm near Wadena.
“It was work, but you was learning something, too,” he says.
He chose to visit from Florida to do the work, which included putting up fences and bailing hay. The nostalgia and the values of those older days are what draw Johns to Grandpa's Place today.
Another nostalgic piece of history there are the washing machines with gasoline engines. Those sometimes required replacing the smart plugs before being able to do your laundry. The 1936 Maytag washing machine housed in the Taggarts’ building has an attachment for homemade ice cream or butter, and a meat grinder.
“It always reminds me of my mom because my mom had … the washing machine with the pedal you (use to) start the engine, and the flex pipe to put out the window,” Taggart says.
Taggart likes the wood barrels, wooden radios and stagecoach the most. He also shared a story about Carol purchasing a covered wagon that she was nervous about paying too much for, but they both ended up glad to have it.
“One of the things I really like ... is my wooden radios. My old, old radios. Not too many people think that’s that exciting. I think they’re cool,” he says.
The most recent items Taggart has procured aren’t antiques, but they have a unique story behind them. Taggart connected with a seller he found through a magazine article, a man who is serving time in jail and who creates cars and covered wagons out of cardboard, glue and paint.
Taggart wrote him a letter, saying, “I really like what you’re doing, I’m impressed with you,” and bought two items right away, with plans to order more.
The items purchased for Grandpa's Place, whether through a letter, the internet, or a trip to another state, keep bringing excitement for the Taggarts, and Rich says, “I hope I never quit, that’s my plan."
"It’s going to be quite a venture for our sons to figure out what to do with all of it — have a really nice auction sale, probably, or maybe they’ll want to keep it and display it…show to other people," he adds.
If you go
Grandpa's Antiques is at 34066 620th Ave. in Wadena, Minnesota. Anyone interested in viewing the antiques should call the Taggarts at 218-640-1222 for an appointment.