This story was reported and written by Maureen Stanton and Sandra A. Miller
SOON AFTER ANTIQUING CAUGHT HOLD in America in the mid to late 19th century, Boston became an epicenter for buying a piece of history. In 1904, a Boston directory listed three antique shops; 20 years later, there were 47. Interest in old treasures has only escalated since then. When the WGBH-produced Antiques Roadshow debuted in 1997 in the United States, it was the sole TV program on the subject. Since 2008, more than 50 reality shows on antiques and collecting have aired, fueling the hope that there’s gold in every attic. The pleasure of antiquing, though, transcends the “score.” Maybe you’re in it for the rush of nostalgia, a connection to history, an investment, or a bargain — or all of the above. Whatever your Holy Grail, this guide, focusing on larger and group shops within 30 miles of Boston, can help you map your search.
De rigueur for Boston treasure hunters, Charles Street has one of the finest antique pedigrees in the country and an undeserved reputation for stuffiness. Start at the Charles/MGH T stop and wander toward the Public Garden, popping into any or all of the more than a dozen shops where history is for sale at every price point. Try on tiaras and vintage designer baubles at TWENTIETH CENTURY LIMITED (73 Charles, 617-742-1031, boston-vintagejewelry.com) or paw through piles of paintings at BOSTON ANTIQUES COMPANY (119 Charles, 617-227-9810), where owner Lou Desautels encourages people to “come and hunt.” ARTIFAKTORI (121 Charles, 617-367-5854, artifaktori.com ) sells both sweet and sophisticated vintage clothing and accessories, while MARIKA’S ANTIQUES INC. (130 Charles, 617-523-4520) is packed with affordable finds, such as the perfect silver serving pieces for a Downton Abbey dinner party.
> CHARLES STREET, BOSTON, FROM CAMBRIDGE STREET TO BEACON STREET
SoWa Vintage Market
As many as 35 dealers hawk vintage goodies with an urban edge in this 7,000-square-foot funky brick warehouse in the South End. Popular with set decorators scouting items for film shoots, this is also a place to find painted furniture, stylish retro fashions, or Mad Men-era barware for your next martini throw-down. There’s $5 parking in the lot next door.
> 460C HARRISON AVENUE (GPS USE: 365 ALBANY STREET), BOSTON, SOWAVINTAGEMARKET.COM
The Barn at 17
“Nothing goes out in less than perfect condition,” says Jerry Freeman, one of the two owners of this expansive showroom just a short drive from hipster haven Davis Square. Mint-condition furniture, art, and decor from all eras appeal to architects, designers, and retail customers, many looking to mix up a modern aesthetic with unique antiques. The attached full-service restoration shop can breathe new life into that beloved beat-up dining table collecting dust in the basement.
> 17 MURDOCK STREET, SOMERVILLE, 617-625-5204, THEBARNAT17.COM
Cambridge Antique Market
Every shopper, from teenager up, will spot recognizable childhood relics in this five-floor Cambridge market with more than 150 dealers. Second-floor salesperson Michele Denning specializes in pop-culture collectibles of the 1950s through the 1970s and is a knowledgeable guide for those looking to blast back to their past. Vinny Vullo, at Menotomy Vintage Bicycles (508-344-3872, oldroads.com) in the basement, salvages and sells bikes. For around $200, you can probably find your powder-blue Schwinn from the ’70s and pedal down memory lane.
> 201 MONSIGNOR O’BRIEN HIGHWAY, CAMBRIDGE, 617-868-9655, MARKETANTIQUE.COM
Considering Concord’s heavy history, these three multi-dealer shops have an airy, eclectic feel. THOREAULY ANTIQUES (25 Walden Street, 978-371-0100, thoreaulyantiques.com ) and UPSTAIRS ANTIQUES (23 Walden Street, 978-371-9095, upstairsantiquesshop.com ) share a sunny building and, to some extent, a lighthearted aesthetic. Look for crisp vintage linens, college wall plates, ephemera, estate jewelry, and Victorian oddities — perhaps a silver snuffbox or mahogany music stand. You’ll also find first editions of requisite reads by Thoreau, Alcott, and Emerson. Pop across the street to NORTH BRIDGE ANTIQUES (28 Walden Street, 978-371-1442), a cooperative with 26 dealers specializing in art, decorative items, and classic antiques.
Downstairs at Felton Antiques
Owner Hope Chudy says that artists from nearby studios like to peruse this 50-dealer shop in Waltham in search of creative inspiration. Reasonably priced items include jewelry, sewing notions, apothecary jars, carnival glass, and — on the upscale end — American Art Pottery. Dealer Dennis Wolbach explains that Boston was the hot spot for this type of pottery in the early 1900s, and he now travels many miles a week to find unusual pieces to sell. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, ask to add it to Chudy’s wish list. She’ll call you when she tracks it down. Continued...