Seeking Antiques

Seeking Antiques

Next weekend is a good one for antiques in Alexandria.

The Historic Alexandria Foundation’s annual antique show kicks off with a preview party on Thursday night Nov. 21, with the show running Nov. 22-24.

It will bring antique dealers from around the country and, indeed, around the world, offering all styles of furniture, paintings, silver and other antiques.

But there are other ways, and other places, to see antiques, some local dealers say. Just a short drive down Route 1, there are a range of antique stores operating year-round, including the building that once housed the Thieves’ Market. The antique show offers an opportunity to see many dealers in one place, they say, but there are also opportunities to find one-of-a-kind antiques year-round.

Antique Show

Setup for the Antique Show hasn’t begun yet – it’s still a week away. But Morgan Delaney, president of the Historic Alexandria Foundation, is already anticipating what he’ll see at this year’s show.

“I look forward to the excitement of seeing what’s appearing,” he said. “I generally find something I buy myself, each year.”

There are 45 dealers coming, from Maryland and Virginia, but also from Georgia, Massachusetts, California and from Kent, England, offering Shaker, Continental, and 17th and 18th Century furniture, Meissen, English, Russian and Chinese porcelains, and a range of artwork, from watercolors to oil portraits. “They’re all really lovely things,” said Mary Sterling, the foundation’s executive director.

Gov. Mark Warner (D) and Virginia’s First Lady Lisa Collis serve as honorary co-chairs of this year’s show. “We just got his letter for the catalog on Friday,” Delaney said.

THE SHOW GENERATES about $40,000 for the Foundation every year, money that goes straight to historic restoration, Delaney said. The Foundation funded restoration of the Alexandria Academy, opened in 1785 as a private school for Alexandria’s elite, but which began offering education as well to the city’s poor, and to girls, under the direction of George Washington. Restoration work began in the mid-1990s.

For the last several years, Delaney said, the biggest chunk of proceeds from the antique show have gone towards paying down the debt incurred in that restoration work.

But there have been other beneficiaries of the sale. This year, the black history center and Carlyle House were both given grants, Delaney said, for historic research.

This year, the Carlyle House will be the subject of an article in the antique show catalog, celebrating its 250th anniversary, said Delaney. The other feature article will focus on Burke & Herbert bank, which ties in nicely to Carlyle House.

“Taylor Burke’s great-grandfather was the last person born in Carlyle House,” Delaney said, “and the bank is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. From our point of view, we’re interested in the part Taylor Burke Jr. played in preserving historic Alexandria.”

Burke authorized restoration loans for old buildings in the city’s downtown, when no one else would, he said “It was good business, but he also played a big role in the preservation of downtown Alexandria.”

Antiques on Route 1

There seems to be a perception, Belinda Byrd said, that when the Thieves Market was sold, that was the end of antiquing on Route 1. But that’s not so.

The Nasafi family, the buyers of the Thieves Market, kept the antique market running there, she said, although people seem to think it’s closed. There are also three stores, clustered at the south end of Mt. Vernon and almost working as a network of advice and referrals, which have sprung up over the last three years.

At the site of the former Thieves Market, now called the Mt. Vernon Antiques Market, business was humming along on a recent Saturday. “It never did really close,” said Bill Middledorf, a mainstay of the market. “There were some misunderstandings going on, when it was sold, about what they were going to do. But it never did close.”

Some dealers stayed on, he said, and some came along after the Nasafi family took over the market. But the market is operating near capacity, housing 28 antique dealers in stalls upstairs and down.

There are Oriental rugs, antique furniture, toys spanning the last half-century, old magazines and a range of small items, with prices ranging from a few cents to a few hundred dollars.

SOME OF the nicest antiques Jane Barrett offers fill a stall in back of the market. The other dealers are cooperative, she said, helping out with customers when she’s shorthanded. “Everybody’s really nice, everybody helps each other” at the antique market, Barrett said.

But she also has plenty of furniture onhand in her store, Jane’s Antiques, at the southern end of the county. “I’ve been here three years,” she said. “I always wanted to do it.”

At Antiques or Notte, a few miles up Richmond Highway, Louise Douglas is also fulfilling a longtime desire. She also operates a stall at the antique market. “It will always be Thieves Market, as far as I’m concerned,” she said.

Douglas came to antiques after a career as an English and art teacher that spanned the globe as she traveled with her husband, a former Marine. When the couple settled in Virginia, she was working as a teacher again, when a PTA parent asked her about getting involved in estate sales.

She worked in estate sales for a decade, then struck out on her own, with a stall at the Pohick Emporium. When that closed, she opened her shop and also found a stall at the antiques market.

That career switch gave Douglas an experience with antiques, and she loved the life. “It’s fun. When I do sales, I meet very interesting people,” she said. She has tales of lost documents discovered in basements, hidden drawers, and amazing finds in houses, desks and drawers.

Douglas also has a house filled with antiques. “It’s like Jane says: be prepared to keep it if you don’t sell it,” she said.

Just around the corner from Douglas, Byrd runs her own store, Adams-Byrd Antiques, the walls covered with artwork and filled with furniture from all periods and places.

“I did doctoral work at the University of North Carolina, then ended up at UT-Austin. Then I was in the French painting department as an intern at the National Gallery,” Byrd said. “So as far as I know, I’m the only Ph.D.-educated antiques dealer with museum experience.”

That informs her appraisals, and her choices about what to bring into the shop, she said, and makes Adams-Byrd an ideal antiques store to find artwork. “Original artwork is definitely a specialty,” she said. “Usually, if people come in asking for something, I can find it.”

Where & When

The Historic Alexandria Foundation Antique Show, at the Holiday Inn Old Town, 625 First St., runs Nov. 22-24, with a preview party on Nov. 21. The preview party is 6:30-9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21, offering a preview of the show, a catalog and a cocktail buffet. Admission is $10 per person.

Hours for the Antique show are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23 and noon-5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24. Admission is $10, $9.50 with a brochure. Parking is free.

More information is available online at Tickets can be purchased by calling 703-549-5811.

Antiquing on Route 1

The Mount Vernon Antiques Market

8101 Richmond Highway


Hours: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Sunday, noon-5 p.m.

Antiques or Notte

8620 Richmond Highway


Adams-Byrd Antiques

8747 Cooper Road


Jane’s Antiques

8853 Richmond Highway