Tonkin of Nantucket brims with beautiful antique furniture, collectibles, and art, and most of the items have a story that is as captivating as the pieces themselves. Take the hefty marine paintings burnished with the deep patina of British history. Owner Robert Tonkin explains that in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Royal Navy had an artist on all its major ships. “The paintings were done on wood panels,” Tonkin says, “so if the ship sank hopefully the painting floated and they would know what happened.”
Scattered throughout Tonkin of Nantucket’s spacious showrooms, which sprawl over 13,000 square feet in a conveniently located residential neighborhood just minutes from the island’s airport, are treasures galore. Tonkin specializes in English and French formal and country antique furniture and accessories as well as marine antiques and oil paintings, fine china from around the world, sterling silver, and unusual toys, games, and sporting memorabilia. Tonkin notes that a big seller for this quintessential Nantucket business, which was started in 1971, are stately “pond yachts,” each one a fully rigged antique masterpiece several feet tall.