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Archive Visit 9: The Treasures within Sister Aimee’s Attic

Cassie Bendel

Posted on December 06 2020

Archive Visit 9: The Treasures within Sister Aimee’s Attic

Thanks in no small part to cable television, collectors often get a bad rep. Part of that reason is because in more modern times, we don’t call them “collectors”. We call them hoarders.

My grandmother is one of them. She’s got a hope chest containing not only her wedding dress from 1950, but her mother’s gown from 1925. Without it, I would have never gotten to hold such an important part of family history. The Mount archives are a little like that. Sure, these women may have been accused of hoarding, but just about once a week now I sit down and thank God for them.

So today we’re going to talk about one of those “hoarders” in particular: Sister Marie Aimee Dunbar. Tucked within the upper floors of the Mount were a few rooms filled with antique treasures that Sr. Aimee, as she was known, spent a great deal of time gathering and eventually selling as part of “Sister Aimee’s Antique Attic”.

This clipping from the Wednesday, June 9, 1993 edition of The Intelligencer tells it best…

Treasure Chest

                Mount de Chantal recently cleaned out an attic – Sister Aimee’s attic, actually, and it turned out to be a treasure chest.

                It’s quite obvious that Sister Marie Aimee Dunbar (Class of ’28), who died last year, was reluctant to toss things out. Ever. What she tucked away over six decades in two large rooms on the top floor of the academy positively boggles the mind. Among the antiques, collectables and curios were six pianolas, oak library tables, fancy oak sideboards, hundreds of patterns of flatware, glassware (including Fostoria, Imperial, and Fenton), lacemakers, an oak hall seat, thousands of books, a Victrola, country cupboard, armoire, 20 Bentwood chairs – and much, much more. There’s so much, in fact, that it took four days to haul it all from Sister Aimee’s attic to the Mount gym, where an auction of the eclectic collection will take place this week.

                Some of the furniture that is certain to attract the attention of bidders was pieced together on the premises when Mount de Chantal, which was founded in downtown Wheeling in 1848, moved to its present location in the 1860’s.

                For many years people would stop by Sister Aimee’s rooms and browse. Any proceeds from these casual shopping tours were used for the school’s benefit, but apparently, donations to Sister Aimee far outpaced sales, with the difference reflected in the massive amount of impressive stuff that will go on the blook at 10 a.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

                Auction purposes are to create space and provide money for restoration and preservation. No double Sister Aimee, who devoted more than six decades of her life to helping girls grow up and receive a fine education at the Mount, would approve. Alumnae affectionately recall her as the nun who ran the candy store at the end of each school day. From behind the counter she would dispense not only treats but also kind words of encouragement to her young customers.

                Now sweet deals will once again abound at the Mount, with the money going for a worthy cause. Items that go unsold will be preserved in a permanent collection, of course. Sister Aimee wouldn’t have it any other way.

According to our friend Jon-Erik Gilot, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s archivist, what didn’t sell during that auction was still located at the Mount when it officially closed.

Do you remember Sister Aimee, either for her collection or her role as candy seller? Share them with us on our Facebook page!

 

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