The Fifth Ward’s hidden antique gems
Lacy Landre uncovers six stores tucked away in Walker's Point that offer anything and everything a vintage-junkie could want.
The Historic Fifth Ward (aka Walker’s Point) is one of the most up-and-coming neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Just south of downtown, it is home to several budding restaurants, bars, galleries, and rehabbed apartments/condos geared toward young professionals and artists.
If you’re looking for some wearable guilty pleasures in Walker’s Point, don’t get discouraged. Even if you’re not into old clothes, antique stores tend to yield a high concentration of jewelry, purses, scarves, shoes, etc. Vintage accessories are, for the most part, beautifully crafted, one-of-a-kind, and relatively inexpensive, considering their quality (which is why the stuff has survived half a century or more).
In my opinion, it’s increasingly difficult for modern designers to be truly innovative in the fashion world (R.I.P. Alexander McQueen), which is why people borrow or pay homage to trends from past decades. This is absolutely not a fault; the beauty in buying older accessories is that they go in and out of style constantly, making them timeless.
So, the next time you’re thinking of gorging yourself on cheapies at Forever 21, or saving up to spend a mint at the new Nordstrom in 2015, consider going on a Fifth Ward antique pilgrimage and get lost in one of our local shops for a few hours instead:
Antique Center – Walker’s Point
1134 S. 1st St.
Hours: Mon-Sun 10-4:45
Best fashion assets: menswear, cowboy boots, dress shoes, vintage luggage, purses, hats
This one is my favorite antique store by far, and always my first stop. The Antique Center has been at their First Street location for 33 years, and with good reason. Their staff is overtly personable and knowledgeable about the inventory. Although it’s been downsized a bit in the last couple of years, the Antique Center’s vintage clothing/accessory stock has grown, courtesy of their featured vendor Dime A Dance.
Dime A Dance (their flagship store is in Cedarburg) has a vast selection of amazing (and decently priced) vintage clothing and accessories for men and women, but I’m going to stress the menswear here. It’s becoming extremely difficult to find good men’s vintage clothing elsewhere, because I think they’re saving it all up. The suits, leather jackets, and shirts are plentiful, but there are also tons of great quality dress shoes, fedoras, neckties, and cowboy boots.
Guys: go here first when you’re looking for vintage. Ladies: you won’t be disappointed either. They’ve got lots of jewelry, hats, shoes, purses, eyewear and more.
Clinton Street Antiques
1110 S. 1st St.
Hours: Wed-Mon 12-5, Tuesday by appointment only
Best assets: kitsch
Only half a block from the Antique Center, Clinton Street is small but sweet. It’s loaded with a nice selection of advertising memorabilia and gender-neutral gift items. Their fashion-related stock might be better suited for wall-hanging than wearing, but there’s no reason not to take a detour to pick up some quality antique or mid-century collectibles.
Farm Girl Antiques
803 S. 5th St.
Hours: Thursday 10-5, Friday 11-7, Saturday 10-5
Best assets: handmade scarves & purses, vintage aprons, kids’ clothes
This gem is relatively new and integrates antique-inspired items and original art into its inventory. You can pick up a tasteful (and inexpensive) handmade winter scarf or DIY-necktie-purse-making kit alongside quality old décor, aprons, and adorable children’s vintage clothing. The showroom is organized meticulously and smells fantastic due to the handmade candles near the entry. The shop has a north woods cabin-type feel and a unique floor design. It’s a must-stop.
Blackhawk Antique Market
633 S. 12th St.
Hours: M-F 11-5, Sat 10-5, Sun 12-5
Best asset: jewelry
Although Blackhawk is a well-stocked high-quality antique store, I wouldn’t necessarily include it in the fashion list if not for one overwhelming jewelry case that is the epitome of quality over quantity. My favorite was a thick, oversized-rhinestoned bracelet with snakes on it (a la Bulgari‘s Serpenti line). They also feature collectibles, paintings, and Victorian furniture comparable to their neighbors at…
Ninth Street Antiques
602 S. 9th St.
Check their website for hours of operation
Best assets: costume accessories, collectibles, mouthwatering furniture
Ninth Street Antiques carries some of the most breathtaking selections of furniture, lighting, architectural pieces, and glassware I’ve ever seen in Milwaukee. As for accessories, I was a fan of some Roy Rogers-era holsters and lunch boxes on their website, but didn’t see much along the lines of wearables in the showroom. It doesn’t matter; go anyway. It’s worth checking out if you ever wanted to know what lounging in a Victorian-era mansion feels like.
Antiques on Second
1039 S. 2nd St.
Hours: Daily 10-5
Best assets: anything & everything you can’t find elsewhere
I have a hard time finding antique hair picks/combs—the beautiful old celluloid ones you use to throw your hair into a French twist. They’re an elegant alternative to lock-slicing hair ties, and one of my greatest weaknesses, but I’ve never had trouble finding them here.
This mall is a three-story antique mecca. Its size may be a little overwhelming, but if you’ve got the time, I would suggest making this your final destination to fill in any gaps on your shopping list, or to stock up on gifts.