Drive south on Addison Road to the east of Geneva, and you’ll see a patriotic barn quilt on a garage.
Drive north on Addison Road to the east of Geneva, and you’ll see carpenter’s wheel barn quilt on the same garage, different side.
Stop at the house and talk to owner/barn quilt artist Larry Janke, and you’ll notice three odd, rusty contraptions lined up in the garage.
Looking like Kaiser helmets for the Amazing Colossal Man, the contraptions are parlor stoves from more than 100 years ago. Each member of the trio has issues: broken parts, missing parts, dulled plating, rust. During the winter months, Larry will hunker down in his garage and bring the old stoves back to their original glory.
He’s not a collector, however. There is a market for these monsters, and Larry says most of the buyers purchase them with the intention of using the stove for a heating source. Behind the row of stoves awaiting restoration is a gallery of photographs that show restored stoves placed into service in cabins and homes.
“I would never burn one,” Larry says. “They look too nice. The nickel plating will get dull after a couple of years.”
The stoves often have beautiful curves, details and ornamentation unique to each manufacturer. Because a single stove can weigh 300 pounds and demand for them was high in the late 1800s, there were many manufacturers, usually one every 50 miles or so. Several were in Columbus, Ohio.
Larry and his wife June make trips across the Midwest to purchase the stoves. He has acquired stoves in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Illinois and Indiana. Some are purchased on eBay, other leads come through the Antique Stove Association.
A retired machinist, Larry occasionally is called upon to use those skills in renovating a stove that’s missing a part. Other times he contracts with a foundry to produce the missing or damaged piece.
“A lot of the stuff has to be welded, and you don’t know what they have dumped in that metal when you’re trying to weld it,” Larry says.
He sandblasts the surfaces to remove rust, then paints the iron black and has the shiny parts re-plated with nickel. He estimates that each stove gets at least 100 hours of attention before it is ready to be sold.
“He averages about a buck an hour with all the hard work he puts into them,” June says.
“It is a ton of hard work,” adds Larry.
While he recalls his family having a stove like these during his childhood, Larry’s fascination with them goes back only 13 years or so, when he purchased one at a sale. “I had no idea what I was going to do with it,” he admits.
Since then he has revived at least two dozen parlor stoves. During restoration, he decides if it will burn wood or coal, or be electrified with a blower and gas logs. The kind of grate in the stove determines if it will burn coal or wood.
As to why he does all this, Larry says it is all about resurrection.
“I just like bringing something back to life. Whoever ends up buying it will take care of it and keep it alive a while longer,” he says.
Visit Larry’s shop—and barn quilts—at 3341 Addison Road, Geneva.