Jill Moon The Telegraph
November 23, 2013
GODFREY — The village’s new shop, Harrisons Gifts, brought a new look to an old house with the shop’s trademark colors that adorn Harrison’s 12-year-old Grafton shop.
In case it seems like the house built in 1836 just appeared on the corner at 6404 Godfrey Road, it did after Sharon and Steve Harrison cleared brush and cut down trees that hid the structure to passers-by. They did enough work, painting and overhauling to quietly open the Godfrey shop last week. A grand opening is planned for spring.
The Harrisons’ Godfrey location is in one of the oldest houses in the village and named for the man who built the house, John Pattison. Thus the structure is known as the Pattison House, which Pattison purportedly built after Capt. Benjamin Godfrey, for whom the village is named, gave Pattison the land and building materials. He gave the property to Pattison, a stone mason, for his construction work on Monticello Female Seminary also built in 1836 and founded by Godfrey. The only institution of higher education for females west of the Allegheny Mountains later became Monticello College and then Lewis and Clark Community College when it bought the campus around 1972.
The Harrisons acquired evidence of Pattison’s ownership and the house’s history when they received in the mail from the previous owner’s attorney documentation and the original abstract of title from the Madison County Office of the Chicago Title and Trust Co.
The Harrisons began thinking about another business location last spring during flooding in Grafton, where they not only operate Harrison’s Gifts but also live in the shop’s white house built in 1876 at 224 E. Main St. The couple found a Realtor who told them she had a “gem” for them to see in Godfrey.
Far from a “gem” at first sight, the Harrisons saw the potential for the Pattison house to become a gift shop and purchased the 1.5-acre property last July; the house is approximately 3,000 square feet. While overhauling the entire interior to make it practical for their multi-item gift business, Sharon Harrison discovered interesting features of the house, such as an ice box in the basement and a smoke house in the yard. An old safe is built into the basement’s stone wall.
“We’ve heard it was an old dairy farm,” Harrison said. “I think a lot of people would just like to see the house. It’s quite a unique little place.”
The Harrisons spent three weeks clearing brush and took down 17 trees. They also installed an easy access parking lot.
“By the time everything was hauled off, there were three Dumpsters, if not more,” Sharon said. “You couldn’t see Godfrey Road or the houses around this one.”
The Harrisons painted the house white and trimmed it with their business’ trademark colors — pink, lime and turquoise — giving it a modern touch while maintaining the house’s historic look.
They installed wheelchair-accessible ramps throughout the public area of the structure to make it easy for anyone and everyone to shop and look within the multiple rooms of the shop. They took out the kitchen and made it their seasonal room, now filled with Christmas and holiday-themed glassware, home decor and figurines, to name a few of the type of seasonal items adorning a table and shelves.
“This room will change with upcoming, seasonal occasions,” Sharon said.
The old library became the shop’s wine and coffee accessory and gift room.
Harrisons Gifts carries a wide and varied merchandise mix from handbags and similar accessories, jewelry and scarfs to specialty baby clothes. The shop has lots of glassware, tin signs and home decor, including iron works for outside decor, which will be carried in Godfrey in the spring.
They painted the entire interior, including where applicable in the basement, where they also added 14 new support beams; put in new doors; installed new ceiling fans; and installed air conditioning.
“We still have a lot to do, but we wanted to open before Christmas,” Sharon said.
Harrisons Gifts’ hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Besides bringing new life to the Pattison house, the Harrisons like to bring charity and support to the communities in which they do business, when it’s something close to their hearts or they feel passionate about, such as animals.
“We’re dog lovers,” Sharon said.
The Harrisons will continue to help certain causes as they do at their Grafton location, where they have donated a percentage of specified weekends’ sales to causes they find meaningful. They donated proceeds to another Grafton business owner, Susan Foval, who operates the Fin Inn, after she was diagnosed with cancer for the third time in her life; she needed funds to help with treatment-related expenses. They also have donated proceeds to the Grafton Food Pantry, as well as money for an air-conditioning unit for the no-kill Riverbend Human Society in Jerseyville.
“We help when we can with what’s dear to us,” Sharon said.
And as a family, the Harrisons help each other.
“She’s basically my second mom,” said Harrisons Gifts employee Lori Klaas, of Godfrey.
Sharon’s son, Scott Hinds, of Alton, married Klaas’ sister, Jessica, the siblings’ mother, Vickie Ontis, of Elsah, also helps at the Godfrey store.
“We have grandchildren together so it’s a team effort; it’s family,” Sharon said. “They help me out tremendously.”
Ontis’ and Harrisons’ grandchildren are Hunter, 10 months old, and Emily, 6.
Sharon also has a daughter, Randa, who lives in Springfield, Ill., with her other granddaughter, Abbey, 14.