Heirlooms hold honored place

By SUSAN LYNN
Register Editor

Register/Susan Lynn
Karen and Jim Gilpin with a multitude of Christmas stockings hanging in front of an upstairs fireplace.

Holiday decorations at the home of Jim and Karen Gilpin at 502 E. Madison are a showcase of family heirlooms.
A hand-stitched red tablecloth made by Jim’s grandmother, Helen G. Gilpin, was an annual staple for Christmas parties at the former Iola State Bank, where her husband, Claude, served as president beginning in the mid-1940s. A whiz at crafts, Mrs. Gilpin’s works on show around the spacious home include a colorful nativity scene on the wall going up the stately stairway.
Karen and Jim have lived in the two-story home for 32 years. It was built in 1908 and features high ceilings, ornate woodwork and cozy details, such as a wood plate railing around the dining room on which they have displayed a multitude of Christmas decorations.
The Gilpins have restored much of the house to its original beauty over the years. The oak plate rail, for instance, was found stored away in the attic. When they renovated the dining room and removed the ’60s style wood paneling, they reinstalled the railing — though at what they think is a higher level so as not to interfere with other furniture in the room. Of special note in the dining room is the recently replated chandelier — a stunning silver and crystal fixture that belonged, again, to Helen and Claude Gilpin.
The main floor of the house has dark oak wood floors with richly colored area rugs which lend themselves well to the warmth of Christmas.
The main Christmas tree in the living room is decorated mainly with red and white ornaments. Touches of gold are 20 years worth of annual issue of Danbury Mint ornaments.
The Gilpins have several collections of ornaments. Others include those from the American Diabetes Association. Karen is diabetic and used her career in nursing to promote awareness of the disease. Jim serves as vice-president for Community National Bank.
Nativity scenes dot the house, from the most beautifully simple to elaborate. Most were made by friends or relatives. A special one in the house’s entryway is made from coarsely colored paper, crinkled to resemble the folds of fabric. That was made by Pam Covault, director of nursing at Neosho County Community College. Karen also served as director of the Mary Grimes School of Nursing for many years.

EVERYWHERE are bears. Up the stairs, perched on chairs. The collection came primarily from Karen’s mother, Jessie Park of Colby, who died in 2001. Her father, Aubrey “Cub” Parks, died just last month.
Up the grand staircase and beyond their bedrooms is the family room — a warm and cozy room complete with fireplace, large screen TV and ample seating. Of special note is a bank teller’s station from the old bank on the corner of Madison and Jefferson. The massive wood and marble counter is now used as a bar.
The spacious room was added to the house in 1981 and allows a more casual feeling to the otherwise formal home. In here is another Christmas tree, a sampling of festive tablecloths and a fireplace with a multitude of stockings strung across its mantle.
The Gilpins said they are willing to open their doors and their hearts for the future of the Allen County Animal Rescue Facility.
Though they are “petless” at the moment, their daughter Sarah’s dog, Dakota, lived with them for six years until Sarah moved to Gardner.
The thought that stray dogs are euthanized after just three days sends chills up their spines, they said. Knowing that lost or stray animals will be kept for longer periods of time gives them peace of mind.

Homes Tour
Sunday 1-5 p.m.,

$10 tickets available at Duane’s Flowers, Creative Clips, Iola Pharmacy, Classy Attic and Jump Start.