Design New England

Antiquing in the Whaling City

Inside Acushnet River Antiques Co. in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

By Courtney Goodrich

Though the celebrated New England Demolition & Salvage will be greatly missed when it closes its doors in the next few months, the one-time textile mill and whaling port city of New Bedford, Massachusetts, has many other great outlets for remarkable vintage finds. Furniture, collectibles, ephemera, artwork, and eccentricities are more than abundant. Fine examples are Acushnet River Antiques Co. and New Bedford Antiques Center, two sprawling antiques centers in former mills just off I-95 on the Acushnet River.

Meandering through these jam-packed cavernous spaces, it’s rewarding to find a style, trend, material, or time period that keeps popping up over and over. Take the marble-topped furniture pieces we discovered on a recent rainy day visit. In addition to old tables, buffets, and servers gleaming with marble or stone tops, there was this hefty marble mortar and pestle behemoth for serious cooks. (Julia Child had an enormous one, but even that was not built into a wood frame.)


Other items worthy of note: This lime-green telephone table and chair. Its curvy shape, cut-out details, and bright color makes it something that turns heads.


An old brass elevator plate ($115) is completely unexpected and sure to start a conversation.


At New Bedford Antiques Center, which is also home to The New Bedford Museum of Glass, dozens of model ships and rolled nautical charts near the front remind that that this is indeed “The Whaling City“ (if driving past the ports, docks, and fish markets hadn’t reinforced that notion already).


Upstairs, a sweet room off the main corridor had an elegant yet eccentric quality to it — a proper lady’s beloved and well cared for treasures. This Ethan Allen factory-painted dry sink was in great shape (only $185), and looked at home with a myrtle topiary and floral dishes on top.


A broken-in personal bridge set with cards on one side and a score pad on the other seemed a snapshot from another time.


Photographs are always interesting finds when hunting for antiques. They are all the more so when they have personal documentation, they spark the imagination. The front photo, for example, has a handwritten notation: “Eddie and Doc. Emery June 20-1919 Pilgrim Monument.” Who were these two pals? Who took the snapshot? What was Provincetown, Massachusetts, where the monument was dedicated in 1910, like just nine years later?


But all was not Herman Miller chairs, 19th-century Louis Vuitton trunks, spindly oak plant stands, and picturesque vintage sleds. We found one room dedicated entirely to vintage action figures, still in the package. There alongside Batman, Star Wars, and Superman, we found Areala, the warrior nun, a girl-power must-have!


Acushnet River Antiques Co., 50 Kilburn Street, New Bedford, MA; 508-992-8878;
New Bedford Antiques Center, 61 Wamsutta Street, New Bedford, MA; 508-991-8700;
Great design is always at your fingertips! Read Design New England’s November/December 2015 issue online!

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