It was billed as a clandestine gathering of collectors on Madison Street, Saturday night.

Invitees were sent a cryptic email inviting them to the meeting of a new “secret society.” Guests entered through the back at 7316, through a shield of woolen blankets hanging from a clothesline.

After divulging a password, visitors were allowed to step forward.

There, behind Yearbook Studios, a group of zealous collectors mingled, noshing on spinach-filled empanadas, Perrier water and perusing vintage industrial furniture and décor.

Noel Eberline and Jef Anderson of Yearbook unveiled some of the pieces from their Maywood warehouse at an invitation-only party, Saturday, attended by about 50 Yearbook fanatics.

Kevin Crowell of River Forest and his family were there, quickly snapping up a putty-colored Telechron electric wall clock from the 1930s.

“I’m from Connecticut and Telechron was a Connecticut company,” Crowell confessed. “This will go in my office,” he said, cradling the clock. “It needs to be rewired, which I can do. I just love industrial design.”

Eberline and Anderson seek out the contents of institutional storage sheds across the Midwest, pulling out lockers, card catalogs, crates, file cabinets and vintage signage and bringing them back to Yearbook.

Many of the objects held fascination to the attendees, just for their back stories.

For sale was a wooden crate from the Lincoln State School and Colony — opened in 1865 as the Illinois Asylum for Feeble-Minded Children — a mental institution turned prison in Lincoln.

“When they got this crate, it was filled with straightjackets,” whispered one in-the-know guest.

Along with vintage institutional chairs, lamps, and player piano rolls, collectors snapped up wall charts of human anatomy from the 1930s and ’40s from the University of Illinois.

A four-seater canoe might be awkward to display in your living room, unless your imagination is ignited finding out that it’s a rental canoe from Akers Ferry in Cedargrove, Mo., “Canoe Capital of the Ozarks.”

Also for sale were wooden file boxes, an early General Electric ammeter in art deco-influenced wooden housing, a 19th-century factory cart and a vintage sign for “Precise Tools.”

“We wanted to have a tour of the warehouse, but we realized it was just impractical,” said Eberline. “So we decided to have some of the warehouse items come out on tour themselves.”

Collector Crowell said he and his wife had amassed a collection of all this vintage “cool stuff,” but he hired designer Anderson to come over and give them tips on how to display it.

“We wanted to redo our living room, and we came into Yearbook when [the studio] first opened,” Crowell said.

“Jef took a lot of what we already had, and gave us advice on how to arrange it. We added a floating bookshelf, and he helped us arrange a wall of family pictures with matching frames.”

Yearbook hosts other “Study Hall” events during the year. In June, Eberline and Anderson capitalized on the Gatsby craze by hosting a “boat deck” summer entertaining workshop.

“It was definitely drawing on the 1920s-vintage look,” said Eberline.

Years of staging experience at Chicago department stores have led to “an emotion with an environment,” said Anderson last year. “This shop is all about an aesthetic and a certain kind of feeling.”

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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