Antiques In Charlottesville is returning to town from March 23rd to 25th at the Main Street Arena. Mounted by the respected show management team of Melrose and Johns, the event will directly benefit our community with three days of shopping and more than forty antique exhibitors. Jay N. Melrose, the senior partner at Melrose and Johns, began selling antiques himself in the 1980s and has more than 25 years of experience on the show circuit.
“I believe Charlottesville is the ideal venue for an antiques show,” he declares. “It’s steeped in history, has great architecture and is a center of higher education. Antiques enthusiasts in and around Charlottesville are sophisticated and have a hunger to gather knowledge—a huge advantage to the exhibitors who will be visiting in March.”
Some enthusiasts love antiques in general, while others become very specific collectors. For example, Beth Davis of Keswick recalls her father giving her mother an antique- reproduction doll that led to Davis and her mother opening a antique-reproduction doll shop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “We began learning about antique dolls, attending dolls shows, and buying and selling antique dolls,” she says. “Sometimes we were our own best customers.”
She now has an engaging collection of dolls and doll accessories. “Each one has a story, if only they could talk,” she reflects. “Just think, they survived clumsy little girl ‘mothers’ and a hundred years later, they are still beautiful and ready to play with.”
Today she enjoys seeking out small doll accessories in antique stores or shows and utilizing a bit of old lace or silk to make a new outfit for a doll. “Mostly,” she concludes, “I think the dolls allow me to hold onto small piece of my childhood.”
Melrose says that antiques shows are perfect venues to explore the market, and to compare quality and prices. Unlike antique auctions, they offer novice collectors an opportunity to build knowledge and learn from experts in their fields.
He laments that the number of shows has declined recently, but contends, “This idea that people aren’t collecting any more is nonsense. People have always collected, but what is changing is the type of objects that entice new collectors to begin collecting.”
He says that today’s economic climate means that the current antiques market is full of bargains. “This is the time to buy,” he says. Melrose explains that the exhibitors for Antiques in Charlottesville have all been carefully vetted and have agreed to properly identify and totally guarantee their wares. “The dealers are chosen for their reputations and the quality of their merchandise and their honesty must be unassailable.”
Founded in 1889, Preservation Virginia is a private non-profit organization dedicated to saving historic places and to perpetuating and revitalizing Virginia’s cultural, architectural and historic heritage. “It’s the oldest state-wide continuous preservation group in America,” explains Judy Rasmussen, president of the group’s Thomas Jefferson Branch, which covers four counties in the Charlottesville area. The local chapter offers programs, tours and preservation awards.
This is only the second year the show will benefit Preservation Virginia. “They say you usually don’t make any money for the first couple years,” Rasmussen continues, “but last year they did make some money. Not a lot, but some.” Funds earned from the show go to the state organization that owns properties as diverse as Jamestowne, the Walter Reed birthplace in Belroi, the Cape Henry Lighthouse in Virginia Beach and other historic places. Rasmussen explains that the moneys will support the promotion of preservation and the maintenance of existing properties.
One example is Bacon’s Castle in Surry, which opened earlier this month after being closed for more than a year for much-needed restoration and stabilization work. Built almost 350 years ago, the Castle is the oldest datable brick dwelling in North America and includes the best preserved, largest, and most sophisticated colonial-era garden in North America. For more information, visit www.preservationvirginia.org
“Mary Howard is really the mother of this wonderful event,” Rasmussen concludes.
“Well, I don’t know about that,” Mary Howard demurs graciously. “I love antiques and decorative arts and my background is in preservation planning. I go to antique shows often and many these days are for non-profit organizations. So I thought, Why not Preservation Virginia? Why not here?”
Howard was the Director of the Western Region for Preservation Virginia and when she proposed a high-end benefit antique show in Charlottesville, people liked the idea. “We started to organize in May of 2010,” she says. “I approached Jay [Melrose] because he’d done shows here before and he said it would be a perfect fit and a fun thing to do.”
The Main Street Arena was chosen for several reasons, Howard explains. “We wanted to bring people to the Downtown Mall with its many restaurants and stores in historic buildings. Adaptive use of these old buildings allows us to keep these historic properties, which in turn let us maintain our sense of place. It’s a social anchor to our history and to the history which makes each community distinctly special.”
She adds that exhibitors love the venue at the Main Street Arena. “It’s the right sort of space,” she continues, “not huge and not crowded. It’s pretty with nice decorations like backdrops, columns and curtains and also has tables and places to sit.”
These venue-loving exhibitors come from Michigan, Kentucky, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maine, South Carolina, Ohio and New York City. What would bring an exhibitor all the way from the Big Apple we asked Zane Moss of Zane Moss Antiques on East End Avenue in New York?
“We did the show in Charlottesville last year,” he explains. “Virginia has always been a sophisticated area with a long historical tradition in fine quality antiques and we found the people knowledgeable and incredibly interested in antiques.”
This year he will be bringing 18th and 19th century English furniture with a wide range of complementary accessories such as paintings, wonderful desk objects and tea caddies. “We’ll have an assortment of extremely fine Black Forest carvings,” he notes, “including a rare large wall-hung eagle.”
It’s important to have both a good venue and a well-run operation to convince dealers to return year after year but last year—the first year—there was a big glitch, Howard admits ruefully. Not only was it pouring rain, but only one truck at a time was permitted on the bricks of the Mall, so the exhibitors had to wait far too long for their turn to bring in their wares.
Problem solved for this year, emphasizes Howard. “We’ve rented electric carts to help dealers move in so we can put their minds at rest. We have wonderful dealers and we want them back.”
Focus On Education
The main focus this year will be education, Howard says, starting with the Gala Preview Party on Friday, March 23rd from 6 – 9 p.m. It’s an excellent opportunity to benefit Preservation Virginia while getting a chance to meet the exhibitors and having the first look at their wares. By reservation only, it is an evening of fine food and wine from a dozen of the area’s top caterers, restaurateurs and vintners.
Alphabetically, these are: Barboursville Vineyards, the C&O, Camino, The Catering Outfit, Fellini’s #9 Restaurant, Glorious Foods, Harvest Moon, Horse and Hound Gastropub, Hotcakes, Maya, Mona Lisa Pasta and Sandy Motley Catering. Tickets are $55 per person or $100 per couple. “You can hardly go out to dinner these days for that cost,” Howard notes.
Either before or early in the party, the Best-in-Show pieces are selected. “There are usually 10-20 outstanding pieces,” Howard says, “based on rarity and value.” Viewing these prizewinners is always popular with visitors.
Saturday morning brings the Walk-Thru with Experts from 9:15 – 10:00 a.m. offering visitors an early chance to view the exhibits. The fee for this special sneak peek is $25 and includes a weekend pass to the show.
The show opens to the public at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 24th. The show is open Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, March 25th from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. General admission is $10, purchased at the door and is good for both days.
Furthering the educational program will be Dealer Talks when various exhibitors will give talks at their booths. Specific times, which will be posted on a signboard, and the talks are covered by the general admission. “Our object is to educate the public,” says Howard. “It’s great if you buy antiques, but a lot of people have inherited pieces and don’t know exactly what they have or its value or how it’s made.” She explains that when visitors spot an item similar to one they have at home, exhibitors often can provide general information such as its history and—in the case of one of those mysterious what-is-it objects—its function.
“We also will be fortunate to have Wallace Gustler, former curator of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and an expert in 18th century guns, porcelain and other items,” Howard says. “He not only will be giving a booth talk on Sunday, but he also will give a special lecture on his and his wife Liza’s own collection on Saturday at the Omni Hotel’s Lewis and Clark room.”
Another very popular event is Meet the Appraisers, a sort of mini “Road Show” evaluating items visitors bring with them. This is available both Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Two independent appraisers, Will Paulsen or Sandra Perry, will provide a verbal Professional Opinion of Value for each item. The curious may purchase tickets at the door of $10 for one item or $25 for three items. It is not necessary to buy a general admission ticket.
Paulsen is well known in central Virginia as a collector, appraiser and a University of Virginia instructor. He began collecting when he was young and is still collecting and appraising in areas including furniture, fine art, militaria, manuscripts, letters and documents.
Perry is an appraiser for Harlowe-Powell Auction Gallery in Charlottesville, which offers University of Virginia, Jeffersonian, and other historic collectibles and ephemera. She has been a credentialed appraiser since 1984. “Between my time in New York galleries and here in Charlottesville, just about everything has come through my hands. Our appraisals are the opinions of someone who has been doing this for a long time.”
Sometimes, of course, some old thing is just an old thing, but you never know. “People often have no clue what they have,” Perry points out. “It’s come down through the family or they’ve been given it by a friend or it’s part of an estate.”
She mentions a woman who came to her with two framed works of art—one a large landscape—a couple years ago which she’d gotten from her parents. “I saw enough of the signature on the bottom of the larger one that I flew to the Internet. I found it was by Samuel Colman, one of the foremost ‘Hudson Valley School’ artists.”
When she described it to a New York City dealer over the phone, he drove directly to Charlottesville where he bought it at auction for $40,000.
And did Mary Howard, “mother” of Antiques in Charlottesville, buy anything last year? “Oh, yes,” she says with a chuckle. “I bought a sweet painting of ships in a harbor by a woman named [Yvonne] Canu. She was a pointillist painter, probably a friend of Seurat. It’s hung in my hallway.”
So whether you are a browser, a novice or a dedicated collector of antiques, be sure to stop by the Main Street Arena for this wonderful benefit Antique Show. You, too, might discover a “sweet painting,” a piece of furniture to make a statement in your home or a perfect one-of-a-kind gift for someone you love.
To learn more about the show, including scheduled events, tickets, and reservations, please visit: www.antiquesincharlottesville.org.
Marilyn Pribus and her husband live in Albemarle County near Charlottesville. They have many “early” antiques, a.k.a. second-hand furniture, as well as treasured family items dating back as far as wedding gifts received by their grandparents.