Hunting for antiques on Maryland’s Eastern Shore
English Settlers Were Living, sailing and slurping oysters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland as early as the 1630s. Signs of those past lives dot the bucolic towns on the Chesapeake Bay’s Delmarva Peninsula, from the 1684 Third Haven Meeting House in Easton and the 1741 Pemberton Hall in Salisbury (now a museum) to rows of candy-colored Victorian cottages in St. Michaels.
Since it’s been occupied for so long, it’s not surprising that the area bustles with antiques stores, vintage shops and a well-known auction house. They’re all repositories for treasures and trinkets left behind or passed along.
“It’s fun and relaxing to antique on the Eastern Shore, and I never know what I’ll find,” says Amber Petry, who lives in Washington, D.C. She furnished her weekend house on the Eastern Shore with used furniture and accessories from area shops. “I’ve bought country chairs with slats and whitewashed tables. And if you want duck decoys, this is your place.”
Goods are often cheaper and more unusual than what you’ll find on the mainland, and there’s a nautical flair to many items.
Here’s our guide on where and how to shop for furniture, jewelry and other treasures, plus tips on where to stay and eat along the way.
In the tiny town of Crumpton, Dixon’s Crumpton Auction (2017 Dudley Corners Road; 410-928-3006; crumptonauctions.com) sells about 600 items an hour most Wednesdays throughout the year. If you’ve bought a farm table or midcentury modern lamp at a D.C.- area vintage shop, chances are it came from here. That’s because dealers up and down the East Coast snap up their stock at this auction. “I’ve purchased a lot of odd items there over the years,” says Pixie Windsor, the owner of Miss Pixie’s vintage shop in D.C. “I’ve found diaries, X-rays, paintings by known artists and a collection of over 500 ceramic frogs.” The family-run auction business started in 1961, and locals, dealers and newbies all come for shopping and a show.
On any given Wednesday, you might see 1930s dressers, midcentury modern leather chairs, 1960s jewelry worthy of a Mad Men outfit and deserthued Moroccan rugs on display inside and outside of the large barnlike structure. Auctioneers with microphones ride in golf carts or pushcarts, speaking in rapid, nearly musical phrases. It sounds like gibberish until your ears start decoding things.
To bid, you register in a small office and choose between concurrent auctions. In the back of the building, they’re selling off “smalls,” which, at a recent auction, ranged from a Ken dollsize statue of Christopher Columbus to enough vintage china to supply a dozen bistros. At the front of the warehouse and outside, there’s a mother lode of 19th- and 20th-century furniture. And in the afternoon, there’s usually a jewelry auction. The prices? They can be downright cheap; I snagged a pair of midcentury modern metal lamps for $40 (similar items on eBay are $400) and a dramatic carnelian stone dragon ring for $50.
Be prepared for heated bidding, with the pros communicating via nods and hand signals and at a rapid pace that could cause you to overpay or lose out on what you want. Still, Windsor says, “When first-timers bid and win the item, their friends and the crowd cheer. It’s a good-natured bunch.” And if competition makes you hungry, a Mennonite-run cafe on-site offers whoopie pies and good barbecue.