Mansion House Art & Antiques in downtown Smithfield, VA
With its large, inviting picture windows beckoning, the exterior of Mansion House Art & Antiques has a slightly contemporary feel to it. But if you’re expecting a modern art gallery inside, you’ll be very surprised. Once you enter through the picturesque courtyard garden, and go inside you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped through a time machine. You’ll be able to see and touch items from a time very different than our own. Some even say that shopping here is like visiting a museum – except of course that you can take home the exhibits!
Mansion House Art & Antiques opened 12 years ago in November of 2002, but owner Betty Clark has been in the antiques business far longer. She started selling at antique shows in the spring of 1978, then moved into a shop located in Norfolk. But the Smithfield native was drawn back home and felt that the town was ready for an antique shop themed with her special passion.
Her passion is evident right away in this elegant shop. The majority of its art, jewelry and relics collections are from the lush Victorian era. Not surprising, given that Mansion House Art & Antiques is located right next door to Betty’s “Mansion on Main Bed & Breakfast”- an exquisite Victorian mansion built around 1889. “The original idea was to have all the items in the bed and breakfast for sale – a kind of antiques shop within a bed and breakfast,” Betty explains. But when her daughter Sala, the B&B’s manager, tragically passed away, Betty changed her plans. She felt that Smithfield, with its exceptional examples of architecture and history from that time period, was ready for an antiques shop with a focus on the Victorian era.
There are a few more surprises for those who step through the door. First of all, there are almost 300 paintings – most of them from Betty’s favorite Victorian period – making it the largest collection of antique paintings in the region. There are also a few contemporary pieces in this impressive collection.
You’ll do a double-take when you see the full-size antique cars sitting center stage in the shop’s gallery. Parked in the same spot for 12+ years, the 1907AA Maxwell and the 1926 Model T Ford have become a fixtures in the showroom and a hit with all – especially little ones. And don’t forget – they’re for sale too.
What else strikes your fancy? Are you interested in English, German, French, Oriental, or American glass? Porcelain, such as Royal Doulton, Wedgwood, Lladro or Nippon pieces? How about costume and estate jewelry? Mansion House offers all these and more. They even do silver matching! What’s silver matching? Betty explains, “If you have a silver pattern and have lost a piece, or never completed the full service, I will try to find the piece or pieces you are looking for. Hence - silver matching.”
Although Mansion House Art & Antiques is located in a small town, it has customers all over the world. Betty has a thriving online business and has shipped articles to Japan, China, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, as well as all over the United States.
What’s perhaps not so surprising is that this art collector is an artist herself. “I restore oil paintings when I am not working in the shop, including several that are for sale in the shop Sometimes a painting just needs cleaning: other times, it needs to be lined and have holes patched. Restoration is very interesting work. Many clients have been surprised at the color and depth a painting has after it is restored.”
Betty works very hard to make sure the items, paintings, and services offered at Mansion House Art & Antiques are affordable. Betty explains, “The hard work is worth it when customers come in and find exactly what they have sought for their homes or for gifts. With Valentine’s Day coming soon, I hope to see many regular patrons who are looking for perfect gifts to present on this special day.” In fact, as a gift to its customers, the shop is offering a Valentine’s promotion throughout the month of February by taking 10% off all items in the store marked with a colored dot.
But running a B&B and an antique shop is not all that Betty is up to these days. She was one of a group of volunteers who formed the group “The Spirit of Smithfield,” active from 1988-98, which held a successful antique show in town. Betty is excited to be part of a similar group today which is planning another antiques show on December 5th of this year at the Smithfield Center and throughout downtown Smithfield. Stay posted for the details, but it promises to be a wonderful holiday event, so mark your calendars now!
Betty’s commitment and vision for presenting Victorian artwork and treasures certainly fits with - as she describes it - “the flavor that Smithfield offers.” Stop in her shop today for a little time traveling. It’s only a half block down from Main Street on North Church - and then a hundred years in the past when you walk through the door.
Mansion House Art & Antiques
120 North Church Street, Smithfield, Virginia
Thursday, Friday and Saturday from10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m
Sunday from 100 p.m. - 5: 00 p.m.