Stepping into the past with Salt Marsh Antiques

May 9, 2014

Throughout the North of Boston region, there are numerous treasure troves known as antique shops.  A fun weekend activity is to go “antiquing” along Route 133/1-A where the majority of the antique shops are located.  This week, we made our way down Route I-A and visited Salt Marsh Antiques in Rowley.  More than a treasure trove, Salt Marsh Antiques is like stepping into a time machine.  Situated in a historic barn, the store is a place where the past becomes tangible.

The barn itself was built in the early 1800s.  By the 1980s, the barn was in rough shape and was to be burned down, if not for Robert Cianfrocca intervening.  He purchased the house and the barn and set to raising the barn (by himself!) and opened Salt Marsh Antiques in 1986.

I was lucky to meet with Bobby (who, besides being an antiques expert is also a photography ace) and get a first-hand tour of the shop.  He explained that there are two levels of antiques: “real antiques” which are 100+ years old and “period antiques” which date to the 18th century.  More modern pieces are “period” pieces – retro, vintage, and other assorted synonyms.  The store itself is full of amazing pieces; all beautiful to look at and fascinating with the stories they have to tell.

During my visit, I learned a bit about antiques and the antique market.  It’s hard to predict whether an item will be incredibly valuable or not – the antiques market is constantly flip-flopping and ever-changing.  Bobby explained that high-end pieces, such as jewelry, paintings, and antique furniture, sell better and quickly, but the demand and prices for certain pieces are greatly influenced by the electronic media.  For example, when Martha Stewart shared her affinity for jadeite, jadeite products became highly sought-after and prices skyrocketed.  After the fad faded away, prices depreciated and collectors, who had stocked up on jadeite thinking they could make a fortune, were left in the dust.

With a shop full of wonderful pieces ranging from sparkling jewelry and delicate glassware to sturdy, finely-crafted furniture, one wonder’s what Bobby’s favorite piece is.  He personally collects bog shoes (which are worn by horses in the salt fields and are very rare) and clocks, but has a special affinity for paintings from the mid-1800s and earlier.

After careful thought, he showed me a wonderful painting of ballerinas and explained that it was an oil painting by Peter Malkin.  Malkin was a Mossad agent undercover in Paris in the 1950s-60s (his cover was that of an artist). Malkin is best-known for capturing Adolf Eichmann, a high-ranking Nazi official who was wanted for war crimes.  The painting itself is beautiful but the history behind the artist makes it an incredibly fascinating and special piece.

if you’re going to be in the North of Boston region, you must stop by Salt Marsh Antiques.  It’s impossible to visit without falling in love with at least one piece.  They are open Monday-Friday 9:30am-4:30pm and Saturday-Sunday 10am-5pm.  On Fridays, they even do free appraisals on small items.