As a humid summer Sunday outing, we took our kids to the Mill Antiques complex in Lafayette, NJ—about 50 minutes from Montclair in Sussex County. We wanted to avoid late-day beach traffic on the way home, and anything that would involve big crowds on a very humid day.
I happen to love antiquing—especially finding a bargain that might appreciate over time. My mom has helped me hone a good eye for value, and it’s something I am trying to teach my kids, too. Mill Antiques is a good place to do it because it contains a variety of collectibles that interest kids.
The buildings in the Mill Antiques complex are interesting in and of themselves, since they were built as part of a gristmill in the 1840’s. (One of the oldest courthouses in the country is just up the road in Newton, by the way.) The on-site Mill House Cafe is decent, mostly sandwiches, soups, and good milkshakes, all at reasonable prices. There’s a nice indoor dining room, but if it wasn’t so icky out, we would have sat outside on the picnic tables by the pretty stream.
The best part of the Mill Antiques complex is upstairs in the red barn, which is chock full of old toys–dolls, stuffed animals, metal planes and trucks, and surprising collectibles, like old cardboard Tetley tea boxes from the 30’s ($50!), metal oil cans, tobacco tins, and mid-century household cleaning products in brightly-colored containers. We even found an old wooden battery from an early Ford car, and a WWI battle helmet! As we looked, we talked about which modern everyday objects might become valuable: Babymouse books? Wii remotes? Unopened bottles of blue Gatorade?
In keeping with their self-prescribed gender roles, my daughter bought a 1950’s bride doll with a strange Stepford-wife expression for $12, and my son loved the metal war planes. I made a mental note to return (sans kids) to look more closely at the assortment of vintage rugs, antique furniture, and Asian art. The prices have gone up since I used to haunt this place in the late 80’s, but are still, IMHO, reasonable.
After about an hour, the kids were ready for something different, so we hopped into the car and drove toward home, stopping at Sprinkle Shack a few minutes down Rt. 15 for yummy ice cream. A sweet ending to a hassle-free summer jaunt!