The Biddington's Bentley Takes to the Road

Morris County, New Jersey:
A Mid-Week, Antique-Buying Junket

Editor's Note: Driving due west from Manhattan, Morristown--the starting point of this tour--is a 40-mile drive taking approximately 1 hour 15-45 minutes depending on the vagaries of bridge and tunnel crossings.

The Bentley prefers to take the 1930's vintage Holland Tunnel (named for the engineer--not the country) out of Manhattan, into Routes1+9 across the Pulaski Skyway (a vintage structure) into the tricky, new right-hand exit to Route 78 (about 1 mile after the Skyway ends) and thence to Route 24 toward Morristown.

Near the Short Hills Mall, it follows signs for Route 124, yet another newly constructed, very tricky, right exit into Chatham. There the breakneck pace of the highway abates. The Bentley purrs with pleasure cruising Route 124 through the well-tended towns of affluent northern New Jersey: Chatham, Madison (home to Drew University and its summer Shakespearean festival toward Morristown (the site of George Washington's command post during much of the Revolutionary War).

The optimum time of year for this excursion is April through the end of May when the forsythia, calery pear, cherry and dogwood give way to the viburnum, lilac, azalea, rhododendron and peony. New Jersey's nickname, "The Garden State", elicits no condescending smirk from anyone who has experienced Morris County in springtime.

For reasons to be revealed, Wednesday is the optimum day of the week for this excursion. However, many of the venues described herein are open on the weekends as well.

Reaching Morristown, we turn left off Route 124. After circumnavigating the town square in Morristown, we find and follow Route 202 South for 3.4 miles to our first destination: Jockey Hollow--the site of George Washington's winter encampment in the years 1777-1779. Continuing past a huge ATT complex, we turn right onto the well-marked Tempe Wicke Road (named for Temperance Wicke--a fine woman who fed and tended many a freezing Minuteman.). Along Tempe Wick 1.4 miles, the entrance to Jockey Hollow Morristown Historical National Park (the first national park so designated) is also well-marked. The park's Visitors' Center has a movie, a small bookstore and other useful facilities. After watching the grim movie, it's a pleasure to step outside into the hardwood forest with its understory of native dogwood all abloom. Beyond the Visitors' Center is a functioning 18th century house with people in period dress. (My acquaintances in the museum profession inform me that such people are called: "interpreters".)

Close to the house, a large kitchen garden is planted and maintained as it would have been in Washington's time. The cooking fragrances wafting from the cabin prompt thoughts of food and libation.

Turning right onto Tempe Wicke Road, the Bentley continues for 2.5 miles where it once more intersects Route 124 at the Mendham Post Office. Left on Route 124, .7 mile to a stoplight on the right is The Black Horse Inn, West Main Street, (973) 543-4277. In the 18th century, this inn was the first stagecoach stop west from New York City. Now it serves as a popular watering hole cum country club for the local residents. But it is lunchtime, and a weekday, so a certain calm reigns. We choose "The Pub" to the left upon entering. It is more casual and convivial than "The Inn". The food here is eclectic: fish, steaks & pasta. Ms. Biddington speaks highly of the brick-oven, thin-crust pizzas called "galettes". When available, the special desserts lovingly baked by Michael, the restaurants affable manager, are not to be missed.

After a leisurely lunch, we descend the steps to the shop downstairs from The Pub: Crockett Ridge Antiques. The shop deals in an array of goods, but with a focus on 18th and 19th century American furniture and on porcelain. While the bargain-conscious ladies in our party stop off at Diane's Consignment's at #1 Hilltop Road (just beyond the Phoenix House across Rt.124), I prefer to cross the street to The Flintlock Room at #6 Hilltop Road--a shop featuring a marvelous array of antique and contemporary scale-model soldiers. The displays are marvelous and the proprietor generous with his information. An additional attraction is his fine cigar selection. Alas, just as I settle in, Ms. Biddington beckons.

We aim the Bentley westward on Route 124 with the town of Dover as our destination. The path to Dover, while slightly complex, is a mere 20-minute drive from Mendham:

Beyond the Black Horse 1.4 miles, down a hill appears a flashing light (and a plaque marking the historic Ralston General Store), we make a right onto this road (Roxiticus). Continuing along it .4 miles, a "Y" intersection appears. This is Ironia Road. We make a left onto Ironia and follow it for 2.2 miles. At a "T" intersection, South Road, we turn right and continue for 1.6 miles to another "T"--Route 513. Making a right onto 513North, we follow its meandering path 5.2 miles into Dover. (Crossing Route 10, turning right at a "T" intersection with a white church, and turning left immediately after an Amoco station, all the time we have remained on 513North.) At the stoplight in Dover, we turn right onto West Blackwell Street and find a parking place.

Dover is an old working-class, Portuguese town; it is now home to many recent immigrants from South America. Like many an industrial-era, northeastern town, its center was mostly abandoned. Dover's life these days revolves around an auction house called Berman's, 33 West Blackwell Street, Dover, New Jersey 07801 Phone (973) 361-3110. Berman's runs auctions most Wednesdays beginning at 6:00 p.m. with viewings the afternoon prior and the day of the auction. (Call to be added to their mailing list.) The auctioneer manages to knockdown around 450-500 items between 6 and 11 p.m. Early in the auction its "standing room only" with canny dealers having staked-out their seats far in advance. Around 9:30p.m., the crowd thins. As the final lots are called the auctioneer's gavel falls more and more quickly. This is a well-run and interesting country-style auction house with a wide array or merchandise: glass, porcelain, textiles, silver and furniture--a great deal of furniture. Dealers replenish their inventory.

Our party views the auction offerings, then continues along Blackwell Street visiting two or three of the antique malls that have found a place in downtown Dover. The most extensive one is Iron Carriage Antiques, 1 West Blackwell Street. It houses about 30 dealers selling antique slot machines, vintage clothing, coins, fine prints, ephemera, etc. This mall is open Wednesdays until 8p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays 11a.m.-5p.m.

Ms. Biddington is champing at the bit to return to the auction. (Young Jake says she suffers from "control issues"; in my day, we used another term. Still, it's useless to thwart her intentions.) I prefer to stroll through the lengthening shadows and peruse the restaurant possibilities. The newest ethnic population in Dover is Colombian. Out the backdoor from Iron Carriage on the corner of Bassett & Sussex Street is a storefront Columbian restaurant I particularly enjoy called Su Casa. The tasty cooking uses pungent spices on rice, beans, chicken and pork. It is filled with hungry workmen returned from their days' labors. Su Casa is hearty, modestly-priced choice, but I must admit to preferring it at lunchtime--especially if my prior evening was an arduous one.

Ms. Biddington is sure to remain at the auction until the fat lady has sung all her encores. For an extended stay, another modest restaurant will provide my haven. On Blackwell Street past Iron Carriage, a modest Mexican restaurant has caught my eye. I'll settle in with a cerveza, a sopa azteca and some tamales. Dealers will wander by; so, I won't be out of touch. Here all my needs will be met until the final gavel falls.

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Morris County, New Jersey


Here at BIDDINGTON'S, our work is also our play. When we're not exhibiting and discussing art & antiques online, we're learning about wonderful objects in shops, at great shows and in museums all over the world.

In this section, Frederick Fieldhouse Biddington offers suggestions and descriptions of interesting art tourism & antique hunting destinations. Some of these places are always in business; others revolve around special or seasonal events. These are art travel excursions we at BIDDINGTON'S--upmarket, online art & antiques auctions and Contemporary Art Gallery--have enjoyed making. We hope you'll like them, too.

Contact Frederick Fieldhouse about His Travels

PEDIGREE & PROVENANCE--art words & terms defined. CREATIVE PROCESS--artists' studio visits.
JAKE BIDDINGTON'S INVESTING--financial advice on art & antiques collecting. MY ART--art for kids.