Island Spotlight: Jack Fritsch of Antiques Depot

Hello to All of Our Favorite Nantucket Hotel Friends & Guests,

During this difficult time, we are remaining positive, looking forward to brighter days. We are wishing that everyone remains healthy and safe.

To help bring some Island-life to those who may be missing the island, we are launching a series of conversations featuring some of our favorite small businesses and organizations on Nantucket.

This week we speak with Jack Fritsch, island antiques dealer, appraiser, and vastly knowledgable maritime antiquarian. Jack and his wife Ciara can be found milling about their shop, Antiques Depot, which shares space on on S. Beach Street (steps from the hotel!) with Nantucket House Antiques. 

 

What Brought You to Nantucket?

Jack Fritsch: I was an Evolutionary Biologist and came here in 1978 to study fish behavior and Salt Marsh Ecology at the UMass Field Station. I stayed on doing research and teaching and became involved with antiques by accident, but was destined for the field by a fascination with history and a love of museums and artifacts. After studying and teaching at the University of New Hampshire, University of Massachusetts, and the Institutes of Fairbanks, I decided to leave teaching and become a full time antiques dealer.

My wife Ciara came over from Cork, Ireland in 1994 to work for the summer. Ciara always had a love for antiques so it was natural that she would be involved in the business. When she is not running her own business, Pure Body Nantucket, she is very involved in the Antiques Depot, helping with sitting the shop and handling all the social media, advertising, and photogrpahy… and the all important second opinions! 

Jack Fritsch of Antiques Depot and Ciara
Antique Depot objects

You knowledge of maritime antiques and artifacts is vast, where did this interest originate? 

Jack Fritsch: A childhood having fun on the coast of Maine made me fascinated with the sea- its biology, history, literature, lore. My father turned me on to Treasure Island at an early age, and the Horatio Hornblower novels. I was hooked. I loved exploring this little antiques shop on the midcoast which had a uflly rigged deep sea diver in its doorway… it was like Aladdin’s Cave for a little kid, filled with pretty esoteric wonders salvaged from old ships and the days of sail. It taught me that you could hunt for these artifacts and learn about them on your own, not just in museums.

 

Tell us about the shop!

Jack Fritsch: The Antiques Depot began in the old Lobster Pot Building on Easy Street. Evolving from The Tiller Antiques that was established in 1971 and run by Howard Chadwick. When I joined the enterprise in 1989 the name was changed to Antiques Depot (a not to the old Nantucket Railroad Depot which was located close at hand). That building was torn down and Nantucket House Antiques and Interior Design invited us to share their space at 2 South Beach Street. The two businesses are enjoying their fifth year together.

We carry 17th, 18th, and 19th Century antiques and art, marine artifacts, China Trade items, tribal arts, folk art, scrimshaw, and decoys. The shop very much reflects the history of New England and coastal life, and I like to think it follows the wake of Yankee whalers and sailors as they sailed around the world. I guess it really comes down to exploring what I find most interesting myself.

In addition to the shop, I’m also a professional Personal Property Appraiser, fully trained with years of courses at RISD and the American Society of Appraisers. I’m the only professional personal property appraiser on Nantucket, established since 2007, and routinely engaged in appraising single items, collections, or full estates, for probate, taxes, insurance, and any other need for a formal, legal appraisal.

 

What’s your favorite object you’ve come across over the years?

Jack Fritsch: You mean this week? I get pretty excited about a lot of pieces. That old midcoast shop had a framed collage of clipper ship sailing cards that I still dream about. In my own shop, the most extraordinary piece has to be the 1675 Roggeveen Chart of Nantucket and surrounding waters that was just acquired by the NHA. It was the first detailed navigational chart for Nantucket, made nearly 350 years ago and still in fantastic condition. I also am very partial to ship’s carvings like figureheads, trailboards, and other folk art sculptures like decoys. I recently picked up a scrimshaw swift with a dog’s head base, made by Cape Cod Wampanoag and one of only about 13 known to exist… it gives me goosebumps.

 

What’s the most unusual object you’ve had in the shop!

Jack Fritsch: We had so many wild items over the years. Certainly Ancienty Egyptian pieces are among the most unusual. A carved and painted wooden figure of a dapper Chinese gentleman in western attire – the advertising sign for a China Trade haberdashery. An early 19th Century box of tea from a company that started in business by throwing the tea overboard in the Boston Tea Party then rowing around the harbor the next day, picking up the floating bales and setting up shop. A Rum Jack – pass along a line thrown from one ship to another when two whalers met for a gam!

Be sure to visit them at the Antiques Depot website and check them out on Instagram at @nantucketantiques where Jack has been sharing his antiquarian knowledge in a series of videos and commentary.

The Nantucket on Instagram

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