Taking the Hill

For shoppers with eclectic tastes who love the thrill of the hunt, Federal Hill is worth the climb.

Focus On Shopping

September 23, 2001|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Staff

Federal Hill is a study in contrasts. This up-and-coming Baltimore neighborhood, just south of the harbor, is both gentrified and down-at-the-heels -- sometimes in the same block. Pawn shops, funky bars and liquor stores rub shoulders with trendy shops and chic little bistros.

The best way to tour Federal Hill is to find a parking space (not always easy) and explore on foot. The neighborhood has more than its share of odd little consignment shops, vintage clothing stores and antique shoppes, sometimes with no sign out front to lure customers in. Aren't you dying to find out what's inside the Warrior's Emporium Karate & Cutlery Supply or the Yogi Magic Mart?

Federal Hill's boundaries have become somewhat fluid, as more and more businesses are opening up and want to be considered part of a trendy neighborhood. Roughly, Federal Hill is the area bordered by Key Highway, Hanover and Ostend -- but don't hold us to that. With that in mind, here is our list of some don't-miss places to browse in the area:

A & A Art

and Antique Gallery

1014 S. Charles St., 410-234-2641

Shop here for an unusual combination of estate furnishings and predominantly African-American art.

Do: Visit more than once, because the space is small and the stock changes.

Don't: Expect a huge selection.

Antique Center

at Federal Hill

1220 Key Highway, 410-625-0182

More than 25 antiques dealers display their wares in room settings, with periods ranging from the 1770s to the 1960s.

Do: Visit if you need an Oriental rug. The selection is good and easy to go through.

Don't: Be overwhelmed by the 10,000 square feet.

Antique Warehouse

at 1300

1300 Jackson St., 410-659-0663

The emphasis is on decorative arts, although there's some of everything in this huge space, which has a Haussner's-like feel.

Do: Come here for vintage Little Golden Books and elaborate crystal chandeliers.

Don't: Bother unless you have time to browse.

Charles Tiles

801 Light St., 410-332-1500

Two floors are filled with mosaics, borders and flooring, as well as hand-painted sinks and granite counters for the kitchen and bathroom.

Do: Look for the Pinteretto tiles with their bright colors and rustic Mediterranean charm.

Don't: Think all the tiles are high end, as they once were. Some are under $3 a square foot.

A Cook's Table

717 Light St., 410-539-8600

This gourmet kitchenware store has everything from eight different kinds of garlic presses to Cuisinarts.

Do: Get a schedule for the cooking classes taught by local and celebrity chefs.

Don't: Overlook the free parking lot adjoining the store.

Gaines McHale

Antiques & Home

836 Leadenhall St., 410-625-1900

In the Baltimore area for nearly 20 years, Gaines McHale offers a showroom of predominantly English and French antiques arranged with upholstered pieces and accessories.

Do: Shop here if you want advice on making antiques work in an eclectic room.

Don't: If you like furnishings from one period shown behind a velvet rope.

Jonathan Maxwell


1438 Light St., 410-727-6870

Storefront windows display the one-of-a-kind pieces, which are based on traditional forms but made of steel, wood, concrete and industrial glass. The studio is in back.

Do: Consider one of the handsome clocks for a gift ($90).

Don't: Be surprised if the look is familiar. Maxwell did the interior of the renovated Charles Theatre lobby.

Patrick Sutton Home

1000 Light St., 410-783-1501

Architect-designer Patrick Sutton has just opened a small upscale retail shop filled with luxury home accessories, linens, personal care products and gifts.

Do: Treat yourself to a shimmery silk and velvet beaded pillow in colors like parchment and taupe ($155-$245).

Don't: Stop by if you're into Spartan chic.

The Rose Garden

1504 Light St., 410-659-5133

Marie Rose sells custom-made wedding accessories in her Victorian parlor: tiaras with Australian crystal and freshwater pearls, veils, garters, gloves and silk purses.

Do: Shop here for handmade hats for weddings, plays and period costumes.

Don't: Bother if you don't have a touch of the romantic in you.

Shofer's Furniture

930 S. Charles St., 410-752-4212

If you think of Federal Hill shopping as funky little stores, you've never been to Shofer's, with its five floors of traditional, transitional and contemporary furniture in all price ranges.

Do: Look for upscale manufacturers like Baker and Henredon here.

Don't: Go without visiting its outlet across the street, the equivalent of Filene's basement.

The Tin Angel

1448 Light St., 410-752-3466

This tiny shop is crammed with finds, including untouched antiques mixed in with hand-painted and revamped pieces.

Do: Note the late 19th century wicker baby carriage for $500.

Don't: Sit on the fish-shaped bench out front. That's art.

Vanessa's Vintage


1132 S. Charles St., 410-752-3224

You'll love owner Vanessa White almost as much as her shop, which is a mother lode of vintage kitchenware, china, glasses, collectibles, creamware, linens, evening gowns, hats and jewelry.

Do: Admire the Victorian blouses ($20-$75), lovingly restored by White herself.

Don't: Come here for '70s stuff. White doesn't consider it vintage enough to stock.


There's plenty more to do in the Federal Hill area.

* Eat. This neighborhood has more good restaurants per square block than any other in Baltimore: Bandaloops, Banjara, Blue Agave, Corks, Matsuri, Regi's, Sisson's, Sobo Cafe, Ten-O-Six and Vespa, to name a few.

* Visit the American Visionary Art Museum at 800 Key Highway, 410-244-1900.

* Take a picnic to Federal Hill -- the hill, not the neighborhood.

* Shop for everything from flowers to fresh seafood to wine at the Cross Street Market between South Charles and Light streets.

* Set up a guided bike tour of Baltimore with Light Street Cycles at 1015 Light St., 410-685-2234, or rent a bike to get around Federal Hill on your own.

* Lose yourself at the Book Rendezvous, 805 Light St., 410-332-1664, which has a fabulous selection of used books, particularly paperbacks, at excellent prices.

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