Putnam, CT: Where Antique Shopping Never Grows Old
Article and photo by Eric H.
Putnam, CT, perhaps the jewel of New England antique shopping destinations, is best appreciated by walking the quaint downtown.
The old Montgomery Ward building serves as sort of the architectural anchor of downtown Putnam -- it's an old brick building with character (and the Montgomery Ward name still intact) put to good use by showcasing several local businesses. Putnam's hometown head-on parking, the well-maintained 1906 train station, the downtown large outdoor patio with chairs and tables (as pictured above), a nice mix of modern and mom and pop stores and restaurants (85 Main looks like a terrific fine dining establishment and is run by Barry Jessurun and Brian Jessurun, owners of the landmark Vanilla Bean Cafe in neighboring Pomfret, CT), add further personality to this northeastern Connecticut town.
In Putnam, you'll see the old barber shop and the local watering hole, but there's also the boutique or gallery. It is one of those towns where the locals seem friendly -- saying "hello" to you on the streets and also allowing you to use the crosswalk first before they drive their cars. There's a leisurely pace and a welcoming flavor, catering to the many tourists who come here to shop for antiques. Those initial uncomfortable feelings of driving through Putnam are now completely gone, thus proving that there's more to life than what we see behind the wheel. Sometime, walking brings out the finer details of a community.
The WINY (AM 1350) radio "broadcast house," right by the scenic but rather rough-looking Quinebaug River and waterfall, has a 1950s-style architectural look with on-air talent and local ads, promoting local businesses, to match. It's almost a throwback to hear announcers broadcasting on location, at the car dealership, and using the "you heard it here first" breaking news flash in this rather quiet town.
For all its typical small-town appeal, Putnam's real drawing card is antique shopping with 17 shops totalling 50,000 sq. ft. of merchandise. The centerpeiece of antique shopping in Putnam is the Antiques Marketplace, at 109 Main St. (860- 928-0442), with four floors of over 350 booths, showcasing more than 50,000 pieces of antiques spanning three centuries! Shopping at the Antiques Showplace is more like touring a very large museum, as we were fascinated by the variety of merchandise including art pottery, jewelry, glassware, toys, coins, porcelain, lamps, paintings, picture frames, dishes, sterling, rugs, kitchen collectibles, furniture, and sports items -- that's just the tip of the iceberg. We easily could have spent a morning here, thus suggesting that touring the other antique stores could have resulted in a full day trip.
It's not just antiques that make Putnam such a nice place to visit, however. We truly like the Mayberry RFD small-town feel of Putnam. You'd almost expect Floyd the Barber, Aunt Bee and Andy to walk through town (there were even a few Barney Fifes during our visit, albeit with New York City accents, drawing attention to themselves as loud, self-proclaimed antique shopping experts). We look forward to returning to this surprisingly vibrant, thriving former mill town -- that really looked like a dying mill town when driving. It just goes to show what a little walking can reveal when traveling the "true" New England.
What are your favorite antique stores in New England?
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The cozy Vanilla Bean Cafe in Pomfret, CT
Brown and Hopkins Country Store, in Chepachet, RI
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