Antiquing the Hudson

Long gone are the days you might happen upon an unidentified Cole, Cropsey or Kensett propped up in the corner of a sleepy Hudson Valley town antique shop. No, the ebays, antique roadshows and savvy dealers have surely ferreted most of them out. But perhaps…just perhaps one remains undiscovered, languishing behind a darkened veneer? It’s enough to lure one out for a day of antiquing in the Hudson Valley, knowing even if you don’t unearth it, you’re likely to uncover something overlooked. I’ve been antiquing in the Hudson Valley for over twenty-five years and am still amazed at some of the misidentified, underappreciated objects to be found. I can tell you that many of the things I find in the area and bring to the shop frequently find there way to dealers in New York City so rest assured, you can find things worthy of the finest galleries anywhere. The other nice part of antiquing in the Valley is that even if you return empty-handed, there are few places more beautiful to explore in the process.

The town of Hudson in Columbia County is the undisputed antiques capital of the Hudson Valley. There’s little need for me to lead you through there since you can happily spend the day yourself going from one shop to the next at your leisure. Furthermore, as I am based in Dutchess and more familiar with the local offerings, I will concentrate my energies there. I’ll organize it by towns, guiding you to the shops that particularly appeal to me. I’ve put an asterisk next the towns that I think are, antiques aside, worthy of an afternoon’s amble.

Dutchess Country Antiques

  • Millbrook* – I might as well start at my home base. Millbrook is a Rockwellian town where they find almost any excuse to bring out the old fire trucks for a parade. The majority of shops are divided between realtors, restaurants and antique shops. It’s admittedly sleepy but quaint and with enough to merit a few hours of your time. Porphyry Antiques (yours truly) is lodged on the second floor of the Millbrook Antiques Mall (MAM) and though the word Mall is off-putting, it’s really just an old house stuffed with three floors of antiques. Right across the street is Red School House Antiques, specializing in Americana but buffeted by a growing inventory of Chinese antiques. There’s another antiques mall in town, the Millbrook Antiques Center, which I bring to your attention mainly so you don’t confuse it with MAM as the offerings are of decidedly lower quality. Just outside of town where Routes 44 and 82 cross, you’ll find Yellow Church Antiques. It has some of the best antiques in the area with a focus on English furniture. Prices are certainly above the county mean but they are not unreasonable for the quality.
  • Stanfordville/Bangall – There are two shops worth exploring. The first you would be hard-pressed to miss driving down Route 82, given the oversized elephant on the roof of Bowen Barn. The barn is a mixed lot. Some contents qualify as antiques in a very liberal sense whereas others, particularly old photo-related items, are more substantive. But it’s a fun place to poke around in with some truly quirky pieces and generally low prices. The most compelling offerings are a little further up the road at NL-GB (Selina Van Der Geest) in the diminutive and genteel hamlet of Bangall. Her shop is now adjacent to the Red Devon, a good spot for lunch. Ms. Van Der Geest once worked at Colnaghi in London and brings to Bangall an elegant, Vervoordt-inspired aesthetic, with an interesting collection of antiques and modern steel furniture. There is also the Ole Carousel Antiques Mall, resplendent in electric yellow-green. I’ve never found anything that appealed to me there but if you’re nearby and inclined, have a look.
  • Pine Plains – Pine Plains is one of the overlooked towns of Dutchess. It’s quite tiny but endearing in its way. It may not be a destination unto itself but if you can snake your way through it between hither and yon, it is worth an hour’s time. Balsamo Antiques, located in an old church, has very good and interesting antiques with something of a kunstkammer feel. There are some massive pieces, both for inside and the garden, that are perfect if you have the appropriately massive space. Further up the road is the flagship Hammertown store and, while more geared toward contemporary furniture and design, there are antiques sprinkled in the mix. It’s a fun place to shop though I go more for the ambience and home décor objects than the antiques.
  • Rhinebeck* – There is no livelier town in the Hudson Valley than Rhinebeck but for all it has to offer, it is somewhat disappointing in the antiques department. Asher House is a sizeable shop with some very nice items but it is largely devoted to custom antique-style tables (which they do quite well). There is a red barn full of antiques behind Beekman Arms but I’ve seldom been tempted by anything there. The paucity of great antique shops is at least compensated for by the thrice yearly Rhinebeck Antiques Fair. This has sadly gone into some decline over the decades but is still a source for remarkable finds and an annual rite for me, whether I go as a dealer or collector.
  • Millerton* – If you’ve been to Rhinebeck and are thinking about one other town to explore in Dutchess, I’d suggest Millerton. It has, in addition to some decent antiques, a charming Harney’s Tea shop, a glassblower, and seasonal weekend farmer’s market. In terms of antiques, there’s Hunter Bee, which has a very Hudson/Brooklyn, high quirk-factor feel with reclaimed and kitschy objects. There is also the two-story Millerton Antiques Center, which is variable in quality (to be polite) but a source for the occasionally unexpected country treasure. You’re also striking distance from the many, fine antique shops o’er yonder in genteel Connecticut.
Posted on 2011 01 03 in On The Hudson