TreeHouse Antiques on Seashore Road, covering 3000 square feet, is an essential stop for every Cape May antique hunter. The sunny yellow structure was built in the early 1900s, and when you enter, you’ll receive a warm greeting from the owners, Susan and Wayne Stewart. They are antique dealers from New York who purchased the business along with a historic home in West Cape May 15 years ago. They went straight to work on creating a cozy ambiance and even flow by attaching a carriage house to the antique store building.
Inside, you’ll walk past exquisite antiques, including an original fireplace mantel from a Rockefeller-owned home in Pocantico Hills, New York. Showcases glisten with fine china and jewelry. The owners are happy to share their knowledge and passion for antiques with anyone.
TreeHouse represents 15 dealers and consignors, and Susan and Wayne often group pieces from the various vendors in a decorated room to help provide customers with an idea of what a particular piece would look like in their homes. There’s a dining room complete with delicate china on a hand-carved trestle-top table, with fine art gracing the walls. Another nook features a converted gaslight lamp on a marble-top table next to a chair, beckoning one to sit. Oriental rugs cover the wood floors. An oak plantation desk, with the name of the southern plantation owner etched on its underside, is still sturdy and functional. Artwork includes a painting by the famous Chadds Ford artist, Paul Scarborough.
Although most items are owned by dealers, the Stewarts do purchase some merchandise from estates. Susan noted how fireplace mantels are a popular commodity due to the scarcity of obtaining pristine pieces. Many are sold sight unseen from their Facebook page, which is updated daily. Susan said, “One year, over a two-week period in October, I sold three fireplace mantles. It’s difficult to keep them in stock, especially near Christmas.” Fine antique furniture is increasingly difficult to find. Repeat customers, a husband and wife, enter the shop. They’ve started a bare-bones restoration and know just where to come, rarely leaving empty-handed.
An Empire flame mahogany chest is for sale and won’t last long. Workmanship and attention to detail in antique furniture has prompted a resurgence due to scarcity and it will only increase in value. Art deco—whether furniture, artwork, or glass—there was none to be found during my visit. “Anything Art Deco flies off the shelves,” said Susan.
However, there are plenty of affordable pieces to add to your collection or to start a new collection. Upstairs, grouped together are kitschy salt and pepper shakers in the shape of tomatoes, smiling turnips, corn, cucumber, and tiny watermelons. They sit alongside groupings of various sized ceramic pink flamingos, along with Planters Peanuts containers and even saltwater taffy boxes (empty of course).
Next to their off-limits working kitchen is a 1930s cream and green enamel gas stove (not for sale) that harkens back to my days as an antique dealer when I acquired the same model with a surprise hidden in the oven. A tinfoil-wrapped package held a pleasant surprise bundle of $20.00 bills. That is the thrill in antiquing—you never know what treasures await you. A Hoosier cabinet across from the stove is filled with baking dishes, aluminum graters, pie plates, and more. On another wall, copper cake molds hang alongside a wood and metal lemon press and other vintage kitchen implements. Sparkling copper chef pans grace another wall. A French crepe anyone?
There’s room after room of items fit for every taste, including antique tools, Black memorabilia, Stangl Pottery, and Franciscan Desert Rose china, Eleanor Roosevelt’s preferred dinnerware at her home in Hyde Park, New York, still popular today among collectors. There are many unusual antiques like a primitive wooden yarn winder, a gilded birdcage, Redware pitchers, and late 1800’s chests and ladder-back chairs. A ball and claw foot card table sits near a glass bow front china cabinet, along with stained-glass windows and chandeliers. Their merchandise is indeed old, unlike other shops filled with a hodgepodge of collectibles, as though you are at a yard sale.
Walking through TreeHouse Antiques you feel as though you have stepped back in time, even wondering if any ghosts are among the antiques. In the spirit of Cape May ghostly lore, Susan told a tale. “In one room, there’s a dealer who has many items for sale and tells me that this has happened frequently—an item she placed on one table has been moved to another spot. It has happened numerous times over the years, and she’s certain there must be a ghost doing it.” Susan adds with a slight smile, “At one time there was a doctor’s office in this building. Maybe a disgruntled patient still walks these floors. Who knows?”
As for jewelry, years ago, a woman came by with a brooch that she had bought at a yard sale for $3.00. It sparkled so, and she wondered if it was worth far more than what she paid and wanted to sell or consign it. Having decades of knowledge in antiques, Susan, with the aid of a jeweler’s loop, inspected it—an indistinguishable signature was on the back. The brooch’s fine workmanship, setting, and superb condition alerted Susan that this was indeed an invaluable piece. Susan highly recommended to the lady that she should have it appraised by Sotheby’s. As it turned out, it was indeed priceless, and was a brooch that had once belonged to Josephine Bonaparte, Napoleon’s wife—whether a gift from him or a past love is up to conjecture. It was later confirmed that it went missing during WWII from a private collection. Susan never heard what happened to the brooch. But it was satisfying to know that offering sound advice and being honest is the difference between staying in business or not.
There’s a very limited amount of vintage clothing, but suffice to say, TreeHouse Antiques has just about everything a savvy shopper could ask for. For a gala, prom, or night out, they carry an assortment of vintage evening bags—sequined, beaded, embroidered or satin, your pick. They don’t last long in the shop. Another trend is pearl necklaces—not just for the ladies but popular with men. When a baseball outfielder wore a strand of cultured pearls, forgoing gold chains, during a game, this fashion statement caught on quickly. More and more men have embraced this look. Hence, pearls are a hot commodity.
Whatever you are in the market for, it’s worth a stop here. You just may uncover a treasure or two. TreeHouse Antiques is located at 742 Seashore Road, West Cape May. Open President’s Day weekend through December, including January 1.