After buying a $100,000 building, a man found a secret attic full of antiques that could be worth double his property value

A man in a red flannel and blue jeans stands smiling in a dimly lit attic filled with antiques
says he found a hidden studio that belonged to the photographer James Ellery Hale in a property he bought for his law firm. David Whitcomb
  • David Whitcomb says he found a hidden attic full of treasure in a building he bought in New York.
  • Whitcomb found over 1,000 antiques including a Susan B. Anthony portrait by photographer James Ellery Hale.
  • Whitcomb is auctioning off the items online on September 18 with auction house One Source Auctions.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

When David Whitcomb bought a property in Geneva, New York, he had no idea there were over 1,000 antique treasures – possibly worth hundreds of thousands of dollars – hidden inside.

A few weeks after he bought the building for his law firm in late 2020, Whitcomb made the discovery when he noticed part of an old drop ceiling on the home’s third floor while giving a friend a tour, according to NPR. Underneath, where Whitcomb told Insider he expected to find rafters, he said he came across the bottom of another floor.

Inside the attic, Whitcomb told Insider he found photographer James Ellery Hale’s century-old studio full of more than 1,000 antiques. Whitcomb discovered cameras and other gear, furniture, decor, and portraits of 20th-century faces, including a rare portrait of early feminist icon Susan B. Anthony, according to a link to the entire collection by One Source Auctions posted on the auction site Invaluable.

A representative for One Source Auctions confirmed to Insider that it would auction the items on September 18. The same representative estimates that the antiques could fetch between $US150,000 ($AU203,591) and $US200,000 ($AU271,454).

Three of the artifact Whitcomb found, including the Susan B. Anthony portrait
Some of the artifacts Whitcomb says he discovered, including the Susan B. Anthony portrait. David Whitcomb

Whitcomb told Insider he has spent months working on cleaning, identifying, and restoring the collection alongside One Source Auctions. In the lead-up to the auction, the attorney has also been sharing updates about the collection on a dedicated Facebook page.

The New York Times reports that Whitcomb bought the building for $US100,000 ($AU135,727). The same report says that Hale moved in the 1880s to Seneca Falls, New York, where the first women’s rights convention in 1848 was held, according to Biography. While living in the area, the notable portrait photographer captured images of female suffragists, according to One Source Auctions’ description of the items on Invaluable, which also says the attic had been sealed off for more than 100 years.

“Everyone hopes to find treasure someday, and we actually did,” Whitcomb said of his discovery. “That is incredible to think about.”