Drive along the 20-mile stretch of US Route 4 between Lee and Epsom in New Hampshire, and you'll probably notice the hundreds of houses and storefronts with stuff lying around out front. Whether you see all the stuff as junk or treasures depends on your opinion of antiquing. This two-lane stretch of road is known as Antique Alley and is home to more than 500 dealers specializing in early American antiques. Everything from stoneware and painted furniture to architectural salvage and old butter churns and quilts can be found for the antique hunter willing to take the time to explore.
Antique shop in New Hampshire — Photo courtesy of rickpilot_2000
The history of Antique Alley dates back to 1976 when Summer and Murial Parker decided to open up a small shop selling moccasins and ice cream to travelers passing along Route 4. When the couple added a few pieces of antique furniture to their shop, they realized they'd struck gold. Other shops soon followed. The new owners of that first shop, now named Parker-French (where Martha Stewart has been known to shop), along with many of the area vendors, abide by the motto, "no reproductions and no crafts." That means the hidden gems you'll stubble upon while shopping Antique Alley are likely the real thing - with a price tag to match.
One person's trash is another's treasure. — Photo courtesy of rickpilot_2000
Antiquing along Route 4 is a stop-and-go affair, so be prepared to hop in and out of your car. Bring cash and be prepared to bargain a little to land the best deals, and while shopping around for the best price is always a good idea, don't hesitate to ask a shop to reserve something you can't live without until the end of the day. Don't forget to come back for it though.
If you're pressed for time and can only visit a few shops, here are your best bets:
Town Pump Antiques- Walking into Town Pump feels like you're stepping back in time into an upscale Victorian home, and this is the place to go for fine furniture, lighting fixtures, clocks and rugs.
Parker-French Antique Center- It's hard to beat the original. Parker-French and the newer Parker-French West collectively house nearly 300 vendors selling almost anything your heart could desire.
Lee Circle Antiques- Another multi-dealer shop, Lee Circle Antiques has a little bit of everything at every price point.
RS Butler's Trading Company- A family-owned local favorite, RS Butler's is housed in a two-story barn attached to a beautiful Victorian house. They specialize in antique furniture and accessories.
The Betty House- This four-building complex keeps quite the collection of antique tools and eclectic household gadgets and gizmos.
To really get the most out of your Antique Alley adventure, plan on making it a weekend. While accommodation is limited along the stretch of antique shops, you can easily find a cozy room in Portsmouth, about 20 minutes away from Antique Alley.