The Talbot County Historical Society (TCHS) is a fairly well-known institution. Its gardens have provided a colorful backdrop for weddings and family photos, its walls house memorabilia of Eastern Shore living, it even curates one of the oldest frame buildings in Easton—dating back to roughly 1790.
The Historical Society has a great weight on its shoulders: to preserve the nuance that is Eastern Shore living while also performing community outreach. These sorts of endeavors do not come cheaply and 25 years ago, in order to generate more revenue, TCHS opened Tharpe Antiques.
“We are a consignment shop,” says DeeDee Wood, Manager at Tharpe Antiques. “Our inventory is about half decorative arts and half antiques.”
What’s unique about the store is that it is operated as a non-profit. “What that means is that when people consign an item, and it sells, half goes to the Historical Society and they keep the other half,” Wood explains. “The half that goes to the Historical Society can be deducted on their taxes.” If someone wants to donate an item instead of consigning it, they can take the full tax deduction.
Indeed the store is brimming with eclectic and interesting pieces. “Our biggest seller is crystal,” Wood goes on to say. “We have Waterford at 50% of retail. We also have Victorian furniture, unusual ceramics, and Satfforshire figures.”
They have expanded in the two years that Wood has managed the store. They now have a section of books for sale as well as an entire room dedicated to doll houses.
One thing Wood is particularly proud of are the lectures Tharpe hosts once a month, March through November. “I noticed people seemed to have a lot of questions about antiques,” Wood says. “So I had the idea to have lectures on a variety of subjects, involving antiques.”
Some lectures this year worth noting are: Mary: Queen of Scots: Her Lacework and Embroidery where an actress performed live as the famous queen, discussing her talents and a bit of her intriguing history; Fiestaware: One Woman’s Tale of Her Parent’s Employment in the 1940s Fiestaware Factory, where a very knowledgeable local antiques store owner discussed her memories of her parent’s employment at the factory; and the extremely popular Halloween lecture, Haunted Antiques. This lecture included the stories behind the world’s most haunted antiques like the Hope Diamond and Myrtle’s Plantation Mirror.
These lectures have served to provide significant outreach to the community offering a place for people to learn about antiques and the history. Another educational outreach program offered by the TCHS—and partially funded by proceeds generated by Tharpe Antiques—benefited students at Easton High School who are in AP Human Geography.
“Students were taught how to distinguish between Neo-classical, Neo-Gothic and Modern Architecture and how to connect architecture with art, poetry and history,” Wood explains. “They were exposed to college-level lectures and visited College Park where they saw college classes, toured a college campus, and were briefed by College Admissions personnel.” All those involved agreed this program was a resounding success.
It is a hefty thing, preserving one’s culture. And as our world spins at a faster and faster pace, it’s nice to know that in one corner of our small town, there are people working to record and maintain what’s special about living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Tharpe Antiques is open Tuesday through Saturday 10am-4pm—closed Sunday and Monday.