Antique Hunting in Tennessee
Sometimes road trips don’t go the way you plan, but that opens the door for an unexpected adventure.
I went to Etowah to look into taking a train ride and hitting Antiques Row. All was quiet at the historic Etowah L& N Depot. A note on the locked door mentioned tree damage along the tracks after a severe thunderstorm. So I set my sights on Antiques Row along Tennessee Avenue. To my disappointment, quite a few shops were shuttered.
“The recession did them in,” was the comment I heard when I asked about the downturn. Yet J & C Treasures offered interesting figurines, vintage linens, fancy handkerchiefs at good prices. Interiors by Design featured a few antiques, but the merchandise was more about fabrics (very nice quality!) and new decorative accessories. The booths at Southern Heritage Antiques & Gifts were laden with china, glassware, toys, tools, lamps, chests, chairs and dolls. I bought a Gorham pewter bowl at a fantastic price. The bargain made my trip worthwhile.
Next time I come to Etowah I’ll take the 3.5-hour train ride on the Hiawassee Loop and visit the Railroad Museum. But this day turned into an antiquing adventure. I made my way to Athens, where the historic downtown boasts several antiques shops. Then, I went to Sweetwater for a late lunch at The Paris Apartment Boutique & Tea Room. Cooney’s Corner has down-home furniture, hardware, yard implements, and novelties. Bobby Todd blends a selection of high-quality furniture with tableware, pillows, floral arrangements and accessories. The stores on North Main Street keep company with the fashionable Lily Pad Boutique and Miss Maudy’s, a sandwich and ice cream shop. Across the corner at E. Morris Street, the amiable shopkeeper at The Robin’s Nest was quick to pull out a tape measure so I could check the dimensions of a cabinet. The shop offered handsome furniture and accessories, as did Cones Cupboard Antiques, located next door. Together with a park that includes flower gardens and a gazebo, these shops make Sweetwater’s historic downtown a worth-the-trip destination for visitors.
As I headed back to Knoxville, I followed U.S. Highway 11 to Loudon — more antiques shops! The shopkeeper at Annabelle’s Emporium shooed me out the door: she was closing early. I found my way to Loudon Mercantile and purchased old-fashioned candies from a barrel. A beautiful selection of American primitive-style décor items tempted me to buy.
In downtown Lenoir City merchants also converted dress shops and shoe stores into furniture havens. They’ve learned that most buyers go to malls for clothing, but they will return to downtown shopping districts for specialty items and unique gifts.
Maybe it’s nostalgia—sidewalks lined with red-brick store fronts, merchandise carefully arranged in tall display windows, interiors with high ceilings and wooden floors, merchandise from Grandma’s attic. Certainly a part of the charm is the drive through the rolling Tennessee countryside punctuated with clapboard houses and hay barns. Quaint towns have something that you don’t find anywhere else. It’s Tennessee at its best.
Have you found a gem of a shop? Tell me about your favorite place to look for antiques.