Caroline Norman is a veteran antiquer, who occasionally spots a place in her Alexandria house that needs to be filled … preferably with a genuine antique. She turns her shopping trips into special occasions when she heads out, either alone or with a friend, to visit the antique stores. You really have to keep your eye out, she said.
Currently shes looking for the kind of English cabinet that was suspended from the walls. For such a serious search she goes shopping alone, because, I go faster that way.
Todd Sigety owner of Washington Square Antiques I, sees antiquers like Norman on a regular basis. Alexandria is like that, with antiques and art galleries, he said. It works out great for a day of wandering around. The charming restaurants and Colonial restorations help make it a day to remember.
Todds mother, Emma Sigety, owns Washington Square Antiques II a few blocks away, so the two work in tandem to help customers find what they want. Many are mothers and daughters looking for wedding gifts while others are hoping to decorate their own homes.
If the young girl is recently married, a lot of times youll make a sale, she said.
At Brocketts Row Antiques and Fine Arts on South Washington Street, the browsing often parlays into buying, according to Opal Beverly who runs Brocketts for her friend Elizabeth Wainstein. Beverly even recommends lunch places right around the corner on King Street. Antiquing can also provide a welcome moms day out when the children are in school.
Wainstein recently opened The Potowmack Company Auctions and Appraisals, also in Old Town at 526 North Fayette St. Wainstein sees both collectors and other shoppers, who simply want to decorate their house with antiques. In this region of Colonial and Victorian homes, that dcor seems a logical choice.
Antiquing thus serves a dual purpose, she said … as both a pleasant pastime and a serious shopping trip. Antiquing groups also come to her auctions because, Its fun when youre with people who share a common interest.
The Alexandria Commission of the Arts recognized this popular activity in its Guide to the Arts & Antiques. It features maps, directions, points of interest, city information, and a listing of art galleries and antique stores. It lays it right out there for you, said Art Commission Chairman Pat Miller, who is an antiquer herself and art gallery owner in Del Ray.
The guide portrays Old Town as a major antique destination in the Washington Metropolitan area, along with others including Middleburg and sections of Routes 29 near Charlottesville. The quaint old homes help create the historical atmosphere. In view of Northern Virginias history, English and American creations naturally dominate the stores.
Many of the old items have a history as well. At Spurgeon-Lewis Antiques on North Columbus Street, a secret drawer on an old card table held some family history dating back to 1929. It was packed with correspondence about a terrible divorce, said store owner John Jenkins. In another desk he bought, there was receipt in the drawer from the Duchess of Argyle for a bathrobe she bought at Sax Fifth Avenue in 1930. At Washington Square Antiques II, a reading stand dates from the King William IV 1825-1835 era, complete with book props. Theyre rare, said Emma Sigety. And isnt that the best thing you can say about any antique?