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Shopping: New Orleans

Arts and Old Lace

Magazine Street a hub for antiques


For most New Orleans visitors, shopping--especially antiquing--means Royal Street as surely as bar-crawling spells Bourbon Street. But in recent years, with rising rents and stiffer competition, many antiques dealers have moved out of the French Quarter onto Magazine Street, which follows the curve of the Mississippi River from Canal Street to Audubon Park.

It's a hodgepodge of antiques shops, art galleries and more ordinary salvage shops dotted among several miles of old residential neighborhoods, but two clusters of stores here are well worth a couple of hours' browsing. And it's a scenic ride as well: You can take the St. Charles Avenue streetcar (still a bargain at $1.25), get off and walk south five short residential blocks to Magazine.

For a broad and unusual assortment of fine art and antiques, get off the streetcar at St. Andrew Street and head south. On the corner of St. Andrew and Magazine is Jim Smiley Fine Vintage Clothing (2001 Magazine St.; telephone [504] 528-9449), the sort of place that knows the difference between "vintage" and merely used. Smiley's runs the gamut from haute couture dresses to '40s suits, serious antique wedding gowns and bodices, silk step-ins and even bloomers, along with an assortment of shoes and hats large and elaborate enough for Garden District tea parties.

Just up the street is Bush Antiques (2109-2111 Magazine St.; tel. [504] 581-3518), which has an amazing assortment of ecclesiastical remnants, so to speak: gilded high altars, heavy bishop's chairs, old chapel statuary, including the Virgin Mary and various saints, iron crucifixes from cemeteries, regalia, silver crosses and stained glass, even vestments.

On the other side of the street is Hands (2042 Magazine St.; tel. [504] 522-2590), whose owner, Rachel Dalessandro, specializes in pre-Columbian art and artifacts as old as 3,000 years (some astonishingly affordable). Also on the south side is Gerry's White Glass (2036 Magazine St.; tel. [504] 522-3544), the combination showroom-studio of a man whose custom architectural glass, etched and carved, ranges from table tops (and table legs) to doors and standing screens.

In and around these four standouts are a number of more traditionally mixed antiques stores and granny's attic salvage shops worth a quick perusal, especially for those intrigued by folk art and old silver.

Those whose eye turns more to ethnic and folk arts should stay on the streetcar a little farther, to General Taylor Street, before heading down to Magazine. Pottery fans should start at Shadyside Pottery (3823 Magazine St.; tel. [504] 897-1710), the studio showrooms of ceramist Charles Bohn, who served his apprenticeship in Japan but who also loves classical Greco-Roman styles. Second stop: Casey Willems Pottery (3919 Magazine St.; tel. [504] 899-1174), whose more ostensibly rustic but elegantly utilitarian wheel-thrown works have been custom-ordered by New York's Guggenheim Museum for sale in its gift shop.

Art-furniture lovers head for the showroom of Mario Villa (3908 Magazine; tel. [504] 895-8731). He made the sconces for the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center, which gives you an idea how highly his peers regard his work. The Davis Gallery (3964 Magazine St.; tel. [504] 897-0780) is square one for household items, baskets, personal items, cookware and masks from Central and West Africa--all actually used and displayed in a museum-quality setting.



Antiquing New Orleans

The Magazine Street Merchants Assn. (telephone [504] 891-4191) has a brochure with map and store information. Or contact the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, tel.(504) 566-5068, Internet

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