Secret Antiquing Towns

For a change of pace- and merchandise- from antiques meccas Hudson and Millbrook, take a trip to Montgomery, Beacon, and Millerton, which are chock-a-block with treasures.



Secret Antiquing Towns

 

Everyone knows about the shops in Hudson and Millbrook, but we¡¯ve found some lesser- known treasure troves around the Valley

 

by Jorge Arango

Photographs by Kenneth Gabrielsen

 

I¡¯m grounded. Seriously. Although I am a grown man, I¡¯ve been told by my
better half that until further notice, I am forbidden to go antiquing with my friend Dee, who came with me to do ¡°research¡± for this article. That¡¯s what got me into trouble. My mission was to find the lesser-known antiquing towns of the Valley, and Dee and I encourage each other to splurge.

 

The search began in the Orange County village of Montgomery, where I spied a pair of 1950s slipper chairs in a shop window. The chairs acted as a magnet, and soon I was clambering over the other things on display to get into the window myself. There I discovered the factory tag, still attached to the chairs, stating that they had been made by the Kroehler Manufacturing Co. of Binghamton and ordered on September 3, 1958, from Millspaugh Furniture in neighboring Walden. They were upholstered in their original turquoise boucl¨¦ and, except for some minor fading, were in mint condition. Best of all, they were only $120 for the pair. Ten minutes into the assignment, with Dee egging me on, I was calling home for permission to buy the chairs. I got permission, but I also got grounded. So here, for your antiquing pleasure, are the investigative fruits of my confinement.

 

MONTGOMERY

 

This pretty little village of Victorian and Greek Revival buildings (many of them on the National Register) lies at the intersection of Routes 17K and 211. I met my demise in the Clinton Shops Antique Center (845-457-5392) on Clinton Street. Like many establishments in Montgomery, this mini antiques mall is set on the street-level floor of an old house. It¡¯s divided into sections corresponding to various dealers, and offers the sort of homespun goods and collectibles you see in many places. But Burt Heath¡¯s selections are a pleasant (and in my case, irresistible) departure ¡ª reasonably priced mid-century modern gems like the Kroehler chairs, as well as a handsome curved desk with a floated glass top that would have been at home in Bogie¡¯s swank offices in the original Sabrina. It came with a gorgeous chair, which I pegged as Danish Modern and not original to the desk. But at $525 for both, and in perfect condition, who¡¯s going to quibble?

 

Diagonally across the street is Red Rooster Antique Center (845-457-4023). This is the ¡°rich relation¡± of Montgomery¡¯s antiques family, with prices to match. To be sure, Red Rooster is packed with unusual offerings. There are paintings, some fine examples of primitive and period furniture (a stately Empire breakfront, for instance), vintage enameled aluminum signs, and pricey farmhouse tables. There¡¯s also the occasional curiosity that transforms a casual browse into a learning experience. We¡¯ve all seen cut-paper silhouettes, those quaint Victorian parlor crafts. Yet how many have seen them executed in wax, mounted on mother-of-pearl, and exquisitely framed?

 

A little funkier is the Montgomery Antique Mall on Railroad Avenue (845-457-9339). But while you might have to dig more vigorously through the goods (terrific kitchen utensils, china, lamps, quilts, jewelry, as well as furniture), you will be rewarded with prices that are very reasonable.

 

The interest at Coal-Bin Antiques (845-457-5409), also on Railroad Avenue, extends beyond the assembled ephemera to the building itself. Once a coal stop on the railroad, the tracks run right into the back. Yet one suspects that the last thing to be unloaded here was not coal, but toys ¡ª specifically, wonderful tin wind-up playthings presumably meant these days for the collector, since the prices preclude a kid ever laying hands on them. But in case your inner child is napping when you come in, there¡¯s much else to peruse: books, china, memorabilia, and stacks of furniture, including bedroom sets, old wicker, and tables of various vintages.

 

Just outside the village, on Route 17K, is Black Scottie Antiques (845-457-9343). The owner is smitten with this breed of dog, and the wood Scottie lawn d¨¦cor sold here made me nervous at first. But beyond the threshold (where you¡¯ll be greeted by black and white terriers just like the ones on the Scotch bottle) lies an astonishing assortment of silver and silverplate in a wide range of quality. I threw caution to the wind and bought 10 Art Deco teaspoons and eight soup spoons (total cost: $16). Dee, with little encouragement, picked up a tomato-red Bavarian porcelain tea set for six at a mere $22. And we spent what seemed like an hour in a back room looking at some kitschy souvenirs and a collection of what appeared to be carnival prizes. The multi-dealer shop, with rooms on two floors, also offers jewelry, pottery, and glass.

 

Other places of interest: Foss 17K Antiques (845-457-9689) on Route 17K, a garage filled with fun stuff, and Guns & Collectibles (845-457-9062) on Ward, which has furniture, jewelry, glass, and other items upstairs, and a gun vault of antique and collectible fire arms downstairs. (¡°The emphasis is on the word collectible,¡± says owner Glenn Doty of the guns.)

 

Browsers could easily spend a whole day in Montgomery, pausing at midday for fortification in one of the village¡¯s several eateries. Most shops in Montgomery are open daily except Wednesday, but hours vary, so call ahead to be sure.

 

AND NEARBY...

 

Talk about one-stop shopping. Just six miles north of Montgomery, on Route 208, is something officially called the Wall-kill Antique Center (named after the river, not the town, 845-778-5822), but known to locals as ¡°The Barn.¡± Its size ¡ª 10,000 square feet ¡ª almost makes it worth a day trip of its own. The space is arranged like a department store: rugs, furniture, and lamps in the front, a couple of showcases of smaller goodies in two rooms to the side, and a huge rear area full of furniture. Chairs hang from the rafters, tables are piled high, and cabinets and cupboards are arranged back to back in rows.

 

There are also some interesting pieces of architectural salvage, dozens of old lamps, and collectibles. The quality varies, but you¡¯re not likely to lose your shirt here. And that¡¯s a good thing, especially on a chilly day, since the back area is unheated.

 

BEACON

 

Dia:Beacon, the cavernous museum of minimalist and conceptual art that opened here last year, is beginning to have the effect city fathers had hoped for. Formerly a rather dowdy destination on the map of lower Dutchess County, the city is experiencing a pleasant face-lift, particularly on the downtown strip where several art galleries and antiques shops have opened for business. Weekends are best, since the rest of the time everyone keeps different hours. (A sign on one gallery reads: ¡°Open by appointment or by chance.¡±) Call to see who¡¯s open if you¡¯re planning a midweek expedition.

 

The antiques shops are still a mixed bag. Some appear longer in the tooth than others, and the stock at these is reminiscent of the town¡¯s not-so-formerly faded demeanor. A useful rule of thumb: quality improves closer to the river. My companion on this trip was Barry, who parked himself at the Chthonic Clash Coffeehouse for a couple of hours while I cased the joint ¡ª he doesn¡¯t care for shabby old things. (There¡¯s plenty of buzz on the street if your companion feels the same way: gift shops, galleries, and several restaurants. We ate terrific, dirt-cheap soul food at BJ¡¯s Restaurant.)

 

There are too many shops in Beacon to cover them all. But here are some highlights from Main Street:

 

Dickinson¡¯s Antiques (845-838-1643) has the most oddball assortment of things. The day I poked around, I saw an antique rowing machine, a Seeger¡¯s Original Siphon refrigerator, an uncountable number of vintage clocks and radios, a Wurlitzer, and on and on. Prices were definitely not cheap, but they weren¡¯t out of this world, either. I did fall in love with a perfectly preserved Victorian wall clock, but at $525, love proved fleeting. This is an endlessly interesting place to browse.

 

Across the street, Past Tense Antiques (845-838-4255) seemed to suffer from a case of schizophrenia. I left scratching my head at the juxtaposition of a circa 1890s Eastlake upholstered settee with two matching chairs (price tag: an eminently affordable $900) and a plastic bubble-bath bottle from Universal Pictures in the shape of Frankenstein priced at $38, and empty at that! But when we checked back, the bottle was sold, proving that one man¡¯s trash is another man¡¯s treasure. The owner specializes in both precious vintage and costume jewelry; there are linens and Swedish and American crystal, too.

 

I crossed the street again and entered what was for me dangerous territory: 20th Century Fox Antiques (845-831-6059). Art Deco is the specialty here, and there were some objects ¡ª complete with the Machine Age streamlining and voluptuous curves of the era ¡ª that I immediately fantasized living with. I saw myself curled up with a Sam Spade novel in the $700 mohair club chair. I knew I would feel joy if I awakened each day to the sight of a $200 chrome table by my bed, or sat down to write under the light of a sleek steel and brass desk lamp ($275). If you¡¯re a devotee of the currently recherch¨¦ Hollywood Regency style being peddled by the shelter magazines, this is your Shangri-la.

Nostalgic Americana is the stock in trade at Relic (845-440-0248). The place is crammed to the rafters with retro merchandise. Ice-o-Mat ice crushers and bark cloth curtains, moderately priced by the panel, put me in a 1950s mood; I instantly craved a pink daiquiri and a cube of yellow cheese on a Ritz. My reverie came to an abrupt halt, however, at the ceramic mustard pot with seven multicolored ¡°comma¡± bowls on a lazy Susan. Yes, it was an original Eva Zeisel design. But for a whopping $1,095 it would probably have been more at home at Dia:Beacon, in the company of Louise Bourgeois and Agnes Martin, than on my table.

 

Iron Fish Trading Co. (845-590-4849) next door is a far more casual and spacious affair that specializes in furniture and lighting made of iron and steel. There aren¡¯t a lot of knickknacks; instead, a quirky array of larger pieces is given room to breathe. After all, a mint-condition silver tinsel Christmas tree ($200) needs room to really sparkle. And you don¡¯t want to knock anything over while testing the hinges of one of several steel-and-glass medicine chests. There¡¯s also garden furniture and some architectural salvage.

Just off Main Street, Tioronda An-tiques (845-831-3437) is worth a once-over, though it¡¯s a little precious for my taste (lots of sweet, grandmotherly tableware and collectibles). The store specializes in lighting, and there¡¯s an eclectic mix of furniture. But there appears to be contemporary giftware mixed in, and the owners run an interior and silk floral design business out of the store as well. Persistent diggers will surely find something they can¡¯t live without.

 

If you need a break from the old and dusty, head toward the other end of Main Street to Hudson Beach Glass (845-440-0068). This handsome gallery, located in an 1890 firehouse, features glass by owners John and Wendy Gilvey, Michael Benzer, and Jennifer Smith, as well as other artists from around the country. There¡¯s also a demonstration studio where you can watch molten glass being blown, pinched, pulled, and formed into objects both functional and decorative.

 

MILLERTON

 

My last ¡°undiscovered¡± antiquing town was Millerton, smack up against the Connecticut border in Dutchess County. I started off at the unimaginatively dubbed 5 Main Street Antiques Group Shop (518-789-0754), where some of the stuff is downright bizarre. To wit: the marble tombstone of an infant named Donata, who died January 2, 1910. Who other than Tim Burton or the producers of Six Feet Under would covet such a thing (which, even if your tastes ran in this dark direction, seemed steep at $300)? Prices on some kids¡¯ furniture made these items easy to pass up (a 19th-century rope bed, sans rope, for $500; an adorable child¡¯s hutch for $325). For my money, old books are the thing here ¡ª for example, a special edition of Banana River, part of Charles Lindbergh¡¯s Autobiography of Values. This slim volume was printed in 1976, the year before its general printing, as a gift to friends. As if to reassure us that $17.50 wasn¡¯t too much to pay for this item, the owner told us it was ¡°priced off the Internet.¡± Perhaps, but it stayed behind nevertheless. But a $12 collector¡¯s club edition of Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel: The Story of ¡°I Love Lucy,¡± was a must-buy for a friend who just can¡¯t get enough of this classic comedienne.

 

The Millerton Antiques Center (518-789-6004) is gargantuan. Until 1986, it was Delson¡¯s department store. Now it houses some 25 permanent dealers and another 20 revolving consignors on two floors. You can find just about anything here: hand-knotted rugs, folk art, backstage passes to bygone Grateful Dead concerts, tacky souvenir goods, framed art, fine sterling silver, kitchen utensils galore, and some really wonderful furniture (a pair of Windsors for $675; a high-backed Mission settle for $1,500; a 1950s Heywood Wakefield armchair for $165; an Edwardian settee, two armchairs, and two side chairs, all inlaid with rare woods and mother-of-pearl, for an unbelievable $1,500). When I got out on the street again, I was dizzy.

 

Millerton¡¯s New England-like main street is full of non-antiquing diversions: eateries (including the upscale Simmon¡¯s Way Village Inn); Saperstein¡¯s, an old-fashioned department store; the great Oblong Books; and (surprise) a first-run movie theater. You might also want to admire the delicate, colorful merchandise at Gilmor Glassworks (518-789-6700). Like Hudson Beach Glass in Beacon, it¡¯s a combination gallery and demo studio, this one featuring the work of John and Jan Gilmor amid a sprinkling of other artists (jewelers, hat makers, and other accessory makers).

 

The last stop was Johnson¡¯s Antiques and Used Furniture (518-789-3848) on Route 22. If you¡¯ve just bought a home in the area and want to furnish it quickly and for a good price, you¡¯d do well to visit here one weekend (it¡¯s open only Fridays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Quality and level of authenticity run the gamut, and there looks to be more used furniture than genuine antiques. But no one can dispute that the inventory is prodigious. It¡¯s also easy to get in and out quickly since the place is arranged for maximum efficiency ¡ª everything lined up in neat rows like a furniture warehouse. You might find a pinewood dry sink (circa 1900) cheek-by-jowl with an American Arts & Crafts sideboard, which might in turn be flanked by generic, production-line ¡°early American¡± maple dressers. Upstairs, chairs hang from the rafters (Hitchcock chairs, which I love, averaged just $50-$75). But I didn¡¯t dare. After all, technically, I remain grounded. ¡ö

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