Arts and Music

Freelton Antique Mall: Eccentric, Exquisite and Eclectic Canadiana

This market is a kind of clearing house for a broad assortment of material cultural debris that makes up our shared Canadian history and identity. What was once marginal or mundane has become magnificent and coveted.

By Margaret Lindsay Holton
Published January 15, 2015

While roaming back country recently, I dropped into the Freelton Antique Mall to have a quick look-around during a 30 minute lunch break. Located just off the main drag (Highway 6) in the heart of the small hamlet of Freelton - south of Guelph, north of Clappison's Corners - this mammoth non-descript aging steel-sided building is home to over 220 avid antique dealers. It's open 12 months a year, every day of the week.

First impression on entry was: what a jumbled mess! Initially, the daunting diversity and sheer density of the mini booths are completely overwhelming. Five-by-eight feet represent the standard booth size. There is just so much stuff!

So much stuff
So much stuff

But what soon becomes clear is that there is a cagey marketing madness to these jam-packed premises.

With a little time on your hands, and aided by a few helpful and omnipresent site attendants - who will even supply a tape measure, pen and paper or baskets if requested - you cannot help but marvel at how carefully curated each numbered booth is.

For the discerning eye, there are treasures galore. Soon, you focus, and The Hunt begins ...

More than 200 booths
More than 200 booths

Nearly-lost associations to these long-forgotten objects trigger murky memories of national or provincial triumph and tragedy, as well as relived childhood episodes and escapades.

A wide assortment of cultural tastes - from rural to urban, from bumpkin to gentry, from the 1750s to the early 2000s - radiate from every corner of this barn-like structure. It is impossible not to get drawn in.

Find silver plate or solid silver
Find silver plate or solid silver

Minutia quickly becomes a clarion call as one tiny itty bitty thing holds your undivided attention. How does that thing work? Who wrote or made that? What is this?

Most everything can be picked up, examined and inspected for defects, imperfections or signs of heavy use. And, make no mistake, most items have been well used. There are, however, many 'never-opened' artifacts tucked away in darkened corners and locked up inside glass cabinets.

Half the fun in this voyage of discovery is finding that ever elusive hidden treasure that will deeply, and instantly, satisfy your aesthetic curiosity.

Oil painting, circa 1966. Price: $125. What a bargain!
Oil painting, circa 1966. Price: $125. What a bargain!

This antique flea market is a kind of clearing house, a recycling depot, for a broad assortment of material cultural debris that makes up our shared Canadian history and identity. What was once marginal or mundane has become magnificent and coveted.

A humming haven for budding collectors, the dedicated enthusiasts constantly trade up, swapping one cherished piece for another. Collectors carefully grow their collections of, say, peanut butter product tins, Blue Mountain pottery, vintage comic books or rural quilted blankets from the 20th century.

For sure, not everything appeals or even sells. Lust for material artifacts fluctuates, reflecting both the times and the era.

One china vendor lamented that the relatively recent advent of the mechanical 'dishwasher' makes many 'modern women' bypass his overflowing booth with its delicate display of hand-painted tea cups and saucers. "Real china is just too much 'work' for modern women to take care of anymore."

Sad, because of their charming beauty, and evidently true, because of the large quantity on display.

Victorian Arts and Crafts upholstered solid oak chair with lovely hand crafted floral needlepoint. A labour of love. For $75! What a steal!
Victorian Arts and Crafts upholstered solid oak chair with lovely hand crafted floral needlepoint. A labour of love. For $75! What a steal!

Unquestionably, one man's junk is another man's treasure. Where else can you find a complete 'reference set' of Coca Cola bottles? Or a display of Vermont maple syrup canisters?

Vermont maple syrup
Vermont maple syrup

The following short video provides a walk-about the premises. Careful. You might fall in love with a few chosen artefacts. You might even get obsessed. Personally, I defy anyone to get out of there without at least one purchase after a solid 30 minutes visit.

Mea culpa. I bought four 'must have' exquisite items at unbelievably good prices after my half hour of rummaging at this eclectic - and eccentric - antique mall in the village of Freelton.

For more info, contact the Freelton Antique Mall.

Bonus 30-second video clip: Freelton Antique Mall - Enjoy!

A mid-career Golden Horseshoe artist and author, Lindsay is available for commissions and assignments via 'mlhpro' at 'hotmail' dot 'com'. See samples at http://canadadaPHOTOGRAPHY.blogspot.com.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 15, 2015 at 18:19:51

I love this place! The wife and I go up here monthly. We've found some fantastic treasures and interesting conversation pieces. And their prices are very affordable. Lots of stuff local to the area to be found in the stalls and shelves. And if you like a piece, make sure you buy it then and there - it won't be there when you come back!

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By Missy2013 (registered) - website | Posted January 15, 2015 at 19:44:28

Too right!

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