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New Bedford: The Antique Capital of Southern New England

Groundworkers inside 61 Wamsutta Street, NB.

It’s always surprised me that New Bedford doesn’t play up the fact that it’s a primo center for antique shopping – because it certainly is one. In fact, the city boasts some outstanding antique centers in its former mills and smaller shops that help burnish the historic appeal of Destination New Bedford in a unique manner.

Spots on the map like Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn enjoy a reputation as an antique shopping destination. Here in New Bedford, the selection of antiques is on par with Atlantic Avenue’s – but the prices are much, much lower. That justifies a tank of gas to make the trip from just about anywhere in New England or from the Mid-Atlantic states – even if that tank is in a U-Haul rental to accommodate your furniture purchases!

You could get lost for days in the Big Three antique centers. They are New Bedford Antiques at the Cove; New Bedford Antiques at Wamsutta; and Acushnet River Antiques. Additionally, downtown is home to the terrific shop, Cottage Antiques on Union Street. In the West End, Circa is the go-to home for vintage clothing. Throw in some funky thrift stores and the long-running indoor Flea Market on Brook Street, as well as frequent one-of-a-kind estate sales, and you’ve got quite a selling point for the city – and a destination for buyers of all kind.

The Big Three operate in this way: individual sellers rent out space within the centers. The large old mills each call home therefore make good use of the ample space at their disposal. Each seller sets their own prices for the merchandise they stock at their “booth.” The antique centers handle sales – i.e., collect payment – for the seller, too.

This ensures a wide variety of antiques, collectibles, kitsch and nostalgia for sale. It’s fun to just walk through these places and check out the amazing variety of items for sale – not just antique furniture, but everything from period costumes to comic books and lots of other assorted ephemera.

Groundworkers who are long-time city residents are well-acquainted with antique or vintage bargain hot spots. They no doubt have some “insider” info I may have missed, and I invite them to share it in the comments section under this column post on Facebook if they’d like. Other Groundworkers are recently arrived in New Bedford and are busy furnishing, decorating or even remodeling homes and apartments after a day’s coworking, so it’s valuable information!

Autumn seems to be the time for antiquing. Therefore, below is a list of the places that make New Bedford the Antique Capital of Southern New England. It and Google Maps will take you where you need to go – into the past via the digital future!

Vintage Guide to New Bedford

NEW BEDFORD ANTIQUES @ THE COVE: 127 W. Rodney French Boulevard in New Bedford; here on the web.

NEW BEDFORD ANTIQUES CENTER @ WAMSUTTA: 61 Wamsutta Street in New Bedford; here on the web.

ACUSHNET RIVER ANTIQUES: 50 Kilburn Street in New Bedford (just off I-195); here on the web.

COTTAGE ANTIQUES: 242 Union Street, downtown New Bedford; here on the web.

CIRCA: 204 Court Street, New Bedford; here on the web.

I LOVE THRIFT: 321 Dartmouth Street in New Bedford; here on the web.

SOUTHCOAST FLEA MARKET: 251 Brook Street, New Bedford; here on the web.

Steven Froias