Small-Town Charm

Known for its antiques and decoys, Havre de Grace offers an old-fashioned good time.

Focus On Shopping

April 24, 2005|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Staff

Other Maryland areas get more press as tourist destinations, but that's part of Havre de Grace's charm. The few blocks that make up its historic district seem all the more real -- a small, sleepy, old-fashioned town without the Disneyland polish.

A day trip here will take you back decades in the blink of an eye. A train whistle sounds mournfully in the distance. Joseph's, a '50s-style department store, thrives on Washington Street, as close as Havre de Grace gets to Main Street U.S.A. There's a tea room, a local drugstore, and Harford County's oldest bakery.

Still, time hasn't passed Havre de Grace by. The historic district also boasts a coffeehouse, an organic food store, a tattoo parlor and excellent locally owned specialty shops.

Antiques and decoys are what Havre de Grace is best known for. Only some of its many stores are listed below, so if antiques and collectibles are your main interest, you should start your trip at the Visitors Center. Pick up a copy of the Havre de Grace Antique Association's walking map, and leave your car in the center's free parking lot. Or just wander around. Most places are within a few blocks of each other.

Here's a list of representative shops to get you started:

Bayside Antiques, 232 N. Washington St., 410-939-9397

The 35 or so dealers who have space in this former five-and-dime offer a wide range of mostly moderately priced antiques and collectibles: baseball cards, marbles, coins, vintage clothes, period furniture and, of course, decoys.

Guilty pleasure: A hard-to-find 1850s majolica teapot shaped like a cauliflower ($165)

Doodads Inc., 308 St. John St., 410-939-8003

Shop for charming gifts and home accessories and feel good about it. The store carries only fair-trade items, mostly from third-world countries. These include bath products, musical instruments, pottery, jewelry and even coffees, teas and chocolates.

Guilty pleasure: Colorful papier-mache kites from Indonesia in the shape of cranes, dragons, butterflies and phoenixes ($25-$37)

Franklin Street Antiques, 464 Franklin St., 410-939-4220

The store is on one side of the street. The annex, where most of the '40s and '50s furniture is housed, sits on the other. There are two main draws: vintage cookie jars (275 of them) and lunchboxes (about 500). If those don't interest you, there are plenty of other collectibles, including old tools, crocks and, of course, decoys.

Guilty pleasure: A Winnie the Pig cookie jar, circa 1940, from Shawnee Pottery ($375)

Gary E. Dennis Antiques, 205 N. Washington St., 410-942-0100

This small shop is crammed with small collectibles, glassware, pottery, vintage kitchenware, costume jewelry and so much else piled on top of each other you can't get to half of it. Look up, and there's more hanging from the rafters. Poke around to your heart's content; no one will pay you much mind.

Guilty pleasure: The collection of sterling silver thimbles ($12-$50)

House Downtown, 101 N. Washington St, 410-939-1600

This sunny shop specializes in cottage-style furniture (the upholstery and slipcovered pieces are from Lee) and home accessories. Its colors are butter yellow and dusky rose. Owner Stephanie Gamble also carries custom bedding, the Thymes line of bath products, and candles. Look for her second shop to open in Belvedere Square later this year.

Guilty pleasure: A slipcovered swivel glider by Lee; it's like sitting on a cloud ($875)

Stephens & Stephens, Ltd., 429 St. John St., 410-939-3334

The specialty here is time, everything from modern clocks to vintage watches and heirloom grandfather clocks. Visit on the hour to hear all the chimes; they sound like church bells. The repairmen here make house calls -- to as far away as Baltimore. (They also take care of the clocks at the governor's mansion in Annapolis.)

Guilty pleasure: A Herschede grandfather clock (1913) with five tubular chimes that sounds like Big Ben ($5,400)

Vincenti Decoys, 353 Pennington Ave., 410-734-7709

If you think decoys are just ducks, think again. Vincenti's contemporary artworks, antiques and collectibles include all sorts of waterfowl, from different species of ducks to geese, swans and herons. Owner Patrick Vincenti has carved many of the decoys on display, but the shop also carries the work of other local artists, as well as painting and carving supplies.

Guilty pleasure: The life-size great blue heron by Virginia artist Bob Moreland ($1,500)

Washington St. Books & Antiques, 131 N. Washington St., 410-939-6215

Looking for rare books? Washington St. Books has them. But it also has 90,000 comics, 5,000 science fiction books, 2,000 issues of Life magazine, and the first issue of Sports Illustrated. Not to mention the mysteries, classics, military histories, military collectibles, 1,500 movies and much more. Luckily, the store is really big.

Guilty pleasure: The life-size Star Wars figures ($3,000)

Getting there

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