Deer Isle firehouse offers unique finds, antiques
A few miles after crossing the soaring Deer Isle Bridge connecting Little Deer Isle to the mainland, an old red shingled firehouse swings into view off Route 15. Inside Ronald Harte Antiques, you’ll find organized chaos: some 19th century Chinese vases, ornate wooden desks, multiple portraits of George Washington as well as random glass baubles. And chairs. Lots and lots of chairs.
“It’s like the Island of Lost Chairs in here,” antiquarian Ronald Harte said, glancing around his shop, which contains all manner of seats from upholstered armchairs to bamboo side chairs.
Harte attributes his love of chairs to their sculptural quality, the way they’re able to draw your eye. In that magical, serendipitous way of people following their passions, he has managed to put his lifelong collection of them to good use.
Harte, owner of Ronald Harte Antiques, has peddled his chairs and other finds of a lifetime from the town’s old firehouse at 12 North Deer Isle Road and online. He sells a variety of antique goods from various periods, most of which are locally sourced and made in Maine.
Harte bought the building four years ago, remodeling and lightening the interior to highlight his wide-ranging collection. He installed an old-fashioned Franklin stove since the building lacked heat.
Historically, the structure once had a dual function: The ground floor served as a one-room schoolhouse while the upstairs housed the island’s volunteer fire department during the 20th century.
The storied building and the community it served are what stirred the antique dealer’s imagination and inspired him to move to Maine permanently two years ago.
“There’s such an interesting community of people here,” he said. “There’s just something about it that seems to draw people.”
Harte’s love for antiques began at a young age. While other children played tag or pretended to be wizards and princes, he and his brother used to play at being furniture salesmen while growing up in Paterson, New Jersey.
“I always thought I would have an antique store,” he said. “And now I’m ‘hashtag living the dream.’”
After attending college, Harte worked for a few years in the apparel business. He trained as a buyer at Saks Fifth Avenue and then spent two years working for Ralph Lauren before pivoting professionally and focusing on interior design for 30 years.
These days, Harte is living his childhood dream. He spends his days running the store and traveling around Maine in his beat-up old Volvo to find interesting, unique pieces to put up for sale.
“I try to buy the unusual,” he said. “I love when people come into the shop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that before.’”
In Maine, Harte finds an authenticity in the way people live and work.
“That’s what I think my shop represents. It’s a combination of the high and low,” he observed. “It’s a $15 chair, teamed with a found piece of sculpture and a black-and-white photograph from the ’30s. It’s a different way we live here now, and I think the shop reflects that.”