Antique Alley NH
Rambling Down NH Route 4’s “Antique Alley” in New Hampshire, a overview of Antique Alley
“Antique Alley” stretches from the Lee traffic circle to Chichester, NH. Antique Alley is known as the oldest antiquing route in New Hampshire. It says a lot for the state that it even has a distinction for the most antique of all the collectable routes. Antiquing is certainly a New England Pastime and there is no where better to enjoy it than on a uniquely interesting and easy to find and follow drive like this one. From Interstate 95, Route 4 is just ten miles off of exit 6 onto Route 4 West.
On Antique Alley, I start out traveling west on Route 4, in search of the antique stores and the numerous other bizarre “Route 4 attractions” I have been hearing about from friends. Supposedly, the drive is not only a antique collector’s dream, but also includes stops for ice cream, a puzzle shop, mini golf, and even more. I barely have time to remember all the “must-sees”, passed along from UNH students, neighbors, and local residents, when I spot the first open shop. It’s called Eagle Antiques and, conveniently, it’s just a turn off of four into the gravel parking lot. Inside there’s a hodgepodge of furniture and household items, truly ancient artwork and retro dishes and décor. The wooden, two-story building welcomes me with the familiar antique shop smell. To those unfamiliar with the sport of ‘tiquing, any seasoned collector will tell you about a shop’s scent. Musty, old smells bring to mind rummage-able piles of eclectic artifacts; new and perfumed smells indicate meticulously cleaned and restored antiques or reproductions. Eagle Antiques is perfectly aroma-ed in dust and wood and I purchase a vintage wool hiking shirt at the counter, which is an old general store-style cash register and probably for sale.
Just across Route 4 from Eagle Antiques is Town Pump Antiques and I happily cross the busy road to peruse more relics. Town Pump Antiques has a distinctly different scent as well as atmosphere. I notice at once that I have entered what could be mistaken for a charming home, complete with light fixtures and oriental rugs. The pieces for sale are very upscale, including fine furniture, glassware, cast iron, artwork, and collectables. It’s a two-story affair and the shopkeeper is friendly and warm. Vowing to return when I have a place for a crystal chandelier and a larger paycheck, I continue on down the alley.
Next and soon I come to T’Berries Antiques and Primitives. Anxious to see some “primitives,” which from years of antiquing I believe to be second-rate and less expensive, yet still charming, rustic antiques, I pull over. The shop is all one level and has much more of a country home smell. It is also about fifty-percent primitive antiques and cute vintage items and fifty percent folk art and handicrafts. The handmade items have a distinctly country style but are well-made and adorable. I almost buy a vintage suitcase, but leave empty-handed despite the fairly reasonable prices.
The next two shops I find are both small and provide a fun assortment for me to poke around in. The first is Willow Hollow, a little store with no big furniture, but instead an array of kitchen items, cast iron figures, and some decor. The second story isn’t really finished, giving it a grandma’s attic type of charm. I rummage through some old baskets and try on a pair of vintage roller skates, but leave with nothing. The second of these two stores, relatively close to one another, is Fern Elderidge. This is another little shop, clearly run by one family rather than multiple dealers. It is an interesting, spacious building filled mostly with finer antiques, furniture, and wooden items. The shop does have an amazing amount of hunting, nautical, and dressage items, all of which are genuine antiques and well preserved.
After a quick break for ice cream at one of the three or four roadside ice cream shops, all of which had a large gathering of customers and looked cheerful and delicious, I’m off to the next set of shops.
Parker-French antique shop is a huge space boasting multiple dealers, tons of items as well as a huge variety. The first floor is a sprawling mess of side rooms, shelves, and glass cases containing jewelry and small items. Since each dealer manages a different area of the store, there is so much to see and buy. I could have spent all day here. Venturing through the massive store, I discover coffee and cookies (by donation!) on the way and enjoy several gingersnaps. I emerge much later into the bright sunlight disoriented and still on the trail.
Really at this point I could have wished for nothing more; I thought I had seen every antique in New Hampshire. That is until I walked to the end of Parker-French’s parking lot, discovering a Parker-French West antique store on the other side! This shop is filled with miscellaneous items of all sorts as well and has multiple levels. The first floor is another multi-dealer affair including a lot of wooden items, some tools and many vintage toys. In the basement I find mostly furniture and taxidermy animals. I’ve been searching for collectable car memorabilia for my dad’s upcoming birthday, but it seems to be missing everywhere, even among these large shops. There are three floors in all, providing an antique-r with an entire day just in one place! I leave with some 1960’s albums and am delighted to continue the search.
My last stop for the day is Coveway Antiques. Its just another little store, with the antique smell, containing mostly jewelry, knickknacks and a rather large corner of military and boy scout gear and clothing. I poke around in the reasonably priced antique hiking gear for a while, hoping to find a canvas day pack, but leave empty-handed. The pleasant shop keeper sees me out while opening a ring case for a delighted older couple. A good end to a day of rummaging, I decide, as I find my car and take inventory for my purchases: A plaid wool shirt for hiking and some retro vinyls. Not bad.
By now I have driven Route 4 to the town of Northwood NH and turn around to head east. Northwood has several gas stations and convenience stores, as does Lee NH, at the other end of “Antique Alley.” Most antique stores on Antique Alley are open from around 10 am to 5 pm and can be hit or miss with the hours. Luckily, this stretch of Route 4 really does have a mini golf course, several ice cream stops, and multiple other curiosity and hobby shops. This often un-explored area of New Hampshire really provides a great afternoon jaunt or rainy day adventure.
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