By Carol Nelson Falcone
The collecting of items of aesthetic, historical, and monetary worth — traditionally items that are many decades, or more than one-hundred years, old — is a hobby that requires tenacity and perseverance. Scouring the countryside for nineteenth-century barbershop poles, for example, takes patience, luck, and quite a bit of cash as some are now worth many thousands of dollars.
But antiquing can be rewarding and a tremendous amount of fun. If you're a beginner, it may be worth getting a book such as Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2010 to help get you started. What you decide to collect is a highly personal choice. Some favorite objects that people typically like to collect are children's toys from the early 1900s, glass bottles, war memorabilia, coins, or any number of other collectibles.
The ridge-area is rich in all sorts of collectibles and paraphernalia from the recent bygone eras, just waiting for you to discover them. Spending a weekend afternoon driving along country lanes, searching for the next quaint shop, can be an exciting adventure for avid enthusiast or amateur adventurer. You may even find a $2.00 bargain that is actually worth hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars.
One of the first stops you would absolutely have to see is a local Mecca of all sorts of antiques and collectibles: the shops at Water Street Market, located in downtown New Paltz. It boasts three antique shops among its storefronts — which also include art galleries and cafés. Two years ago, Hudson Valley Magazine rated Water Street as having the best antique shopping in the ridge area, and it certainly lives up to its reputation.
"I'd say we are known for our size, variety, and value," said Walter Marquez, manager of Water Street. "It's a great way of looking back on history."
Marquez says that some of the best sold items are furniture, black and white photographs, glass bottles, and antique lace. Here, you can find unique treasures such as ornate chandeliers, wash basins, match box cars, bridal dolls, comic books, and candlesticks.
"From 1880 to the 1960s, we cover it all," he says.
Splendor in the Glass
Glass canes and other "whimsies" can be seen at the Terwilliger House in the Village of Ellenville. Photo by Carol Nelson Falcone. Courtesy of Ellenville Public Library and Musuem.
Antique glass bottles come in all shapes, sizes, and colors dating back through time and various stages of production. These vessels, many of which are hand blown, allowed for the storage and transportation of consumables such as ale, wine, tonics, perfume, and medicines. And, of course, many are now highly collectible.
Ellenville was a hub of the glass production era for the 60 years between 1836 and 1896, when the Ellenville Glass Company was established by Alvan B. Preston, primarily because of its high availability of wood, and the ease of transportation the D & H Canal offered. The company, which changed its name several times over the years, produced many flasks and bottles known as carboys and demijohns, some of which are clad in woven wicker coverings made from willow that grew nearby.
Remnants of some of the glass products from this company can be found at the Terwilliger House Museum in Ellenville, which is now part of the village's excellent public library. At the end of each day the glass blowers would take the leftovers from the day's work and fashion them into items such as canes, rolling pins, colored balls, and other unique forms. These ornamental objects became known as "whimsies," or sometimes "fancies" or "oddities." At the time, they were made mostly for fun, and sold for less than a nickel. Today they can be found at many glass bottle trade shows throughout the country fetching anywhere from $10 to $250.
Whether you decide to begin collecting glass bottles or objects from years past, one thing remains: these artifacts hold not only liquids but charm as well. Local antique shops such as Water Street Market in New Paltz and Hi-Ho Antiques in Gardiner have many fine examples of glass pieces from various time periods, and in all sorts of colors and sizes sure to find a home on your sunny windowsill. Happy glass hunting!
Another establishment worth visiting is Freight House Antiques on Canal Street in Ellenville. You can easily spot this unique store by all of the interesting signage decorating the exterior of the building. Many kinds of advertising from the past century can be found here. Also in Ellenville on Center Street is the recently opened Jezebel's Bazaar, which has all sorts of collectibles, from vintage clothing, to furniture, knickknacks, and funky jewelry.
If you are a connoisseur of distinguished antique furniture, you could travel to Route 302 in Pine Bush and stop at Country Heritage for one-of-a-kind, handmade pieces from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Here, you can find furnishings from the Victorian era, Renaissance Revival, and Federal periods, along with other items more rustic in nature. If you've done your homework and you seek pieces that are representative of cabinetmakers such as R.J. Horner, Thomas Brooks, and Alexander Roux, this is where you can find them. Some of the pieces they've sold have found their way into major Hollywood movies, Broadway shows, museums, and national magazines.
If you decide to make a day of antiquing in the ridge area, you might think of the path you take as one big loop. If you choose to start in New Paltz at Water Street, you can then make your way up to Rosendale Wares on Main Street in Rosendale, another shop with a nice assortment of collectibles. Then follow Route 213 through the charming hamlet of High Falls and stop at Cat House Antiques on Bruceville Road. High Falls is also an excellent place to stop for a bite to eat, with an eclectic assortment of restaurants.
Continuing your adventure, you can then turn north at Route 209, where you might stop at Thumbprint Antiques on Tongore Road just off Main Street, or at Stone Ridge Antiques which is just a bit further south on Main Street in Stone Ridge. If you head south on Route 209, Rose Hill Antiques in Accord is packed with all kinds of interesting items (it's also close to Saunderskill Farms, one of the best farm stands in the region). And, don't forget to check out the Old Brick House Antiques in Kerhonkson. You can continue on for a side stop in Ellenville along Route 52 for the Freight House Antiques and Jezebel's Bazaar, before continuing on to the Village of Wurtsboro and Wurtsboro Wholesale Antiques.
You might then cross back over the ridge to Pine Bush for Country Heritage Antiques; or, you can backtrack and take Route 44/55 over the mountain to the Town of Gardiner and hit Hi-Ho Antiques on Main Street, and then, just a bit further south, Grandpa's Antiques and Collectibles at the intersection of Route 44/55 and Route 208.
These are but a few of the choices you'll find if you decide to take an afternoon searching for the past. There are, of course, others too numerous to list here. But if you're feeling adventurous the Shawangunk Ridge area has much to offer. Hope to see you here!
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