Tidewater Day Tripping - March 2011


Tidewater Day Tripping:
Angling for Antiques
Bonna L. Nelson


Remember that the most valuable antiques are dear old friends. - H. Jackson Brown, Jr., author of Life’s Little Instruction Book

Some folks come to the Shore to angle for fish, while others come to sail or cruise. Some folks come to enjoy Shore seafood and local dishes or stroll the streets of our quaint towns. Some folks come to visit dear old friends. Others come to look for the other type of antique. The Shore is an antiquer’s heaven.
My husband and I became hooked on antiques when furnishing our first home. Some might question our definition of antiques. Most professionals define an antique as a work of art, piece of furniture or decorative object made at least 100 years ago, but some will allow that items over 50 are considered antiques.
When in our mid-twenties, neither our “antique” furnishings nor our friends met either professional antique definition. But now our dear old friends and most of our furnishings would qualify for the more liberal definition of an antique – age 50-plus.
Our first foray into antiques was with family. My mother gave us the fine cherry secretary that was in my parents’ home when my brother and I were babies. One of us, my mother is never clear which, and tells the story interchanging my brother and me as the culprit, scratched the desk front with a toy when we first learned to walk and explore.
The secretary was later beautifully refinished and is a treasure in our home to this day. I really don’t know how old it is, definitely over 50, but like many owners of old pieces, we treasure it for its memories and beauty.
From my grandmother came a dining room set, and from her dear friend came a bedroom set. Both sets have some age on them, probably 75 years or more. They were painted at one time, when antiquing paint kits were the rage. All were later refinished to their natural wood. These pieces, too, are of sentimental value rather than valuable antiques and came to us when we were in need.
Over the years we have collected furniture and other relics of the past, symbols of history that attracted us, were interesting conversation pieces or seemed useful. For example, our antique barber’s chair was always a fun ride for visiting kids and our church pew fascinates adults.
The church pew came from a house of worship that now sits under the Loch Raven Reservoir in Baltimore County, Maryland. The mill town of Warren was flooded around 1912 to construct a dam to supply water for Baltimore City and County. A minister kept a stack of the pews in his garage. He advertised. We bought.
That pew has been in our three homes. First it held guests’ coats in the foyer, then it sat in the library near book shelves, and now that we have downsized it graces our front porch.
We don’t claim to be antiques experts, but you can tell we love antiques and we have found some delightful treasures on the Shore.
We have shopped all over Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia by car, but our most unique antiquing adventure was purely accidental and was undertaken by boat.
About 20 years ago we took a summer cruise to Tilghman Island. While strolling on the main thoroughfare, we came across an antiques shop in a quaint Victorian house with a “going out of business” sale sign out front. Antiques overwhelmed the first floor of the house and spilled out onto a screened porch. We dug right in. John was attracted to a grinding stone mounted on a wood frame with a seat; he remembers seeing his grandfather using one to sharpen tools on his farm, and, having done some fencing in his past, he picked up an antique fencing masque. I thought I could use an old wooden Coke Cola bottle crate for storage, a butter churner (conversation piece, not to churn!) and a heavy metal bin. Most of these items would be called “primitives” in antiques lingo.
The owners loaded our purchases in the back of their pick-up truck and drove us to the marina. Together we loaded our gems in the cockpit of our cabin cruiser. What a sight as we cruised to the northern end of the Bay where we lived then with our boat loaded down with those odds and ends!
Antiquing is a year-round sport, but when the weather gets cold and dreary and you are tired of sitting around the house, winter can be a great time to go angling for antiques. Antiquing is a terrific way to get some exercise while roaming about in history. Purchasing a beautiful, rare, durable, or desirable antique piece brings pleasure to the purchaser and, since it is recycling it is a good thing for the earth too.
The Shore offers a wide range of antiques shopping experiences from tiny antiques boutiques to multi-vendor antiques malls. Some shops are situated on major highways and others are tucked away on the main streets of historic Shore towns and picturesque villages. Shops may offer fine American, European and Asian antiques, Americana, primitives, decoys, and assorted home décor, clothing and accessories, and collectibles.
For me walking through an antiques shop is like taking a step back in time, like strolling through a history museum, or searching for treasure a la Indiana Jones. My first stop on a recent antiquing trip was at Foxwell’s Antiques and Collectibles Mall on Route 50 in Easton. Foxwell’s boasts more than 60 vendor booths. Jennifer Burch, owner of the 10,000-square-foot space, said that they have something for everyone, from high end antiques to unique collectibles. Business was up 13% in 2010 compared to 2009, she said. Folks on their way to or from the Atlantic beaches stop in as well as locals. You will find items in Foxwell’s that you’ll remember seeing in your grandmother’s house, old sewing machines, fine lace linens, wooden ironing boards and beautiful jewelry as well as furniture and accessories.
Antiques shops also grace the main streets of downtown Easton as well as along the streets in the quaint, historic towns of Cambridge, Chestertown, Denton and St. Michaels, among others. While in St. Michaels, we ventured into London’s and the Oyster House Antiques on Talbot Street, where we found fine antiques, china, décor, paintings, jewelry, silver and collectibles. And, there are many more antiques shops beckoning in that little town, including Antiques on Talbot, St. Michaels Hidden Treasures and Hollyhocks.
Cambridge is another antiques town. You could spend all day exploring Bay Country Antiques, Backfin Antiques, the Country Pineapple Antiques, Packing House Antiques and many more.
In downtown Easton you will find Janet K. Fanto Antiques & Rare Books, Easton Antiques & Art Gallery, Jean McHale, Kate’s Garden Gate, Oxford Greens, Lanham-Hall, Dwelling & Design, Bountiful and more.
Denton boasts the Denton Station Co-op Mall, the Ole Sale Barn, Black Crow Antiques and more. In Queenstown you will find the famous J.R.’s Antique Center and Chesapeake Antique Center just minutes from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
Crumpton’s Auctions in Crumpton may be a better warm weather antiques hunt. Every Wednesday beginning at 9 a.m., bid on items ranging from pure junk to high end as you follow the auctioneer around the 15 acres of outdoor fields in his golf cart. Locals suggest arriving early - they open at 6 a.m. - to check out the merchandise. Also enjoy delicious home-cooked food and a farmers’ market.
Antiques buffs rave about Chesapeake Antiques and Furniture Center in nearby Chestertown. With over 5,000 pieces in stock, including estate pieces, there is sure to be a treasure for you.
Some shopping tips for your expedition: wear comfortable shoes and layers of clothing (some shops are cool and some overheated). Make a list of what you are looking for. Take cash, checkbook and credit card; you never know what will be accepted. Take a tape measure and measurements of your room or space, if needed, a notepad, pencil or pen, eyeglasses or a small magnifying glass and small flashlight. Keep notes on pieces you are interested in and particulars about the shop in case you want to do more searching or bargaining and make a return trip. Enjoy angling for antiques on the Shore!
Locate Shore antiques shops by consulting the following: the 2011 Sunday Driver Directories of Dealers of Quality Antiques brochure can be found in most local antiques shops or online at www.sundaydriver.com. It includes shop locations and map. The AntiqueWeek Travel Guide to Antique Shops & Malls for the Eastern United States can be purchased in many local antiques shops and online at www.antiqueweek.com. The Eastern Shore Guide at www.easternshore.com lists antiques shops on the Shore. Information/Visitors Centers and Chambers of Commerce in Shore towns are other sources for information.


Bonna L. Nelson is a Bay-area writer, columnist and photographer. With a master’s degree in liberal studies and English, she has taught both memoir and creative writing. She resides with her husband, John, two dogs, two kayaks and a power boat in Easton, Maryland.