One of the great things about living in Bonner County is the history in our community. There are old houses, old buildings, old homesteads, and our downtown is filled with buildings with rich pasts. Just recently Nellie Lutzwolf the owner of the shop Wolf & Bell uncovered a little history. If you haven’t been in Wolf & Bell, it is filled with vintage treasures and Nellie’s original art. Just walking into the shop feels a little like walking into a museum. Here is a recent interview with Nellie about her love of history, her shop, and what she found under the floorboards during a recent remodel.
Q: Could you introduce yourself and your shop?
A: I’m Nellie Lutzwolf the owner and artist of Wolf & Bell whose main location is adjacent to the Panida Theater downtown Sandpoint. My favorite response to people coming into the store is, “this is a weird little shop.” It features an eclectic array of vintage, art, and other surprises like a photo booth. Some people are taken back to their own memories. Some people are fascinated because there are objects they’ve never seen before. For me it’s an extension of my own living space, and my love of vintage.
Q: How did you first become interested in history, and collecting vintage and antique artifacts?
A: Since I can remember my parents were dragging me to antique stores. They had a real passion for objects with a story, one that I didn’t share at the time. I used to hate it until they lured me in with allowing me to start my own collection. For a little girl who loved Peter Pan I decided to collect thimbles, which, if you’re familiar with the story, are kisses. Going to the antique store turned into a treasure hunt. As I grew, my collections grew, and so did the appreciation of the history and memories stored in each object. Eventually my Master’s Thesis dabbled in the power of nostalgia and memory in the art object.
Q: You have recently been working on some renovations in the shop, can you talk a little about your experiences? Have you found anything interesting or unexpected?
A: Historic buildings like the Panida are real gems and I’m so grateful I get to be apart of it! There is an energy in the walls that’s hard to describe, but it’s like you can almost feel the performances, movies, and events of years past. Plus I can smell popcorn whenever there’s a movie running! Environment is everything when you’re an artist, it can either make or break your creative mojo and being next to the Panida is the epitome of a creative space. Peeling back the layers is just a way of honoring the history. I wanted to replace the wood laminate ever since I moved in January 2019. When I was finally able I had high hopes to find something we could restore back to its original glory. After peeling back the first layer I found remnants of red vinyl composite tile. Then under the underlayment was what I imagine to be the original laminate flooring whose geometric pattern reminds me of Zenitherm Flooring from the 1920s. Unfortunately it was too far gone to function, but it’s still stunning with its blemishes and all, and worth sharing! Despite my sadness in not be able to restore it I know hardwood floors will honor the classic beauty of the building.
Thank you for sharing, Nellie! I love imagining what your shop might have looked like in the 20’s. I also have a new appreciation for old flooring- who knew it could be so interesting! I am also intrigued by the idea of all the historical mysteries we might uncover in our own houses.
Since we have all been spending so much time at home. Let’s see what kind of history mysteries we can find at home. Maybe you live in an old house, or even a historic house…have you thought of searching in the back corners of basements, floorboards, or behind walls? Talk with the your family, what is the story behind your home? Who lived there before you, who built it, when? Has it been remodeled? Ask if there are any spaces in your house that might be hiding clues to history- like under Nellie’s floorboards. Now, if you happen to live in a newer house, don’t worry there is still history to discover. Do a walk-through of your house and challenge yourself to find the oldest looking object you can find. Then ask someone to tell the story of what it is, and why they have it. You can also use museum archives to research your house or neighborhood.
Nellie's experience isn't the first time a local business has uncovered history. Sandpoint Super Drug uncovered a mystery under their floorboards last year when they found a hidden safe!
Share your own finds in the comments or #athomewithBCHS