Antiques from more than 200 dealers are on offer at Star Center Antique Mall in the old Snohomish armory. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Antiques from more than 200 dealers are on offer at Star Center Antique Mall in the old Snohomish armory. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Something old for everybody in our state’s antique capitol

Hundreds of thousands of antique-lovers from around the world visit Snohomish each year.

You know it as the Antique Capitol of the Pacific Northwest.

Snohomish, founded in 1859 and bound by the Snohomish and Pilchuck rivers, is a treasure trove of historical buildings, homes and antique shops. Its historic district is listed on both the state and national registers of historic places.

Who does Snohomish have to thank for the tourist-attracting nickname?

John Regan, the original owner of Star Center Antique Mall.

When Regan opened his store in 1982, he felt like Snohomish needed a little something.

To be sure, it wasn’t antiques. He alone had tens of thousands of period pieces in the mall’s five-story building on Second Street.

So he gave it the nickname now synonymous with Snohomish.

“My dad coined it when they were trying to establish an identity,” said Tim Regan, who took over the antique mall with his wife in the late 1990s.

A card catalog at Faded Elegance in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

A card catalog at Faded Elegance in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The nickname stuck, and was further reinforced when more antique shops opened downtown.

You won’t find another place in Washington like it. Snohomish is home to more than 350 antique dealers, offering collectibles sold in more than a dozen shops, all located within less than a square mile of each other downtown.

Snohomish is the antique hunter’s equivalent of being a kid in a candy shop.

And just like a candy shop, there’s something for everyone, from circa 1800s French cabinets, 1950s-era porcelain signs and 1920s chandeliers to vinyl records, train sets and mid-century lamps.

Each store sells hundreds to tens of thousands of antiques, many of which have value for their aesthetic or historical significance. With so many items to look at, it can be overwhelming.

But antiquers agree that it’s that hunt for the perfect item that makes it fun.

Kimberly McIlarth owns Faded Elegance in downtown Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Kimberly McIlarth owns Faded Elegance in downtown Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

“You never know where you’re going to find them,” said Kimberly McIlrath, owner of Faded Elegance on First Street, which also sells home and garden decor, and boutique and vintage items.

You’d think a surplus of antique shops in one city would breed competition. But shop owners here say that’s not the case.

“We all know each other and try to work together,” McIlrath said. “We have a good community.”

McIlrath, 48, grew up in Snohomish. When she was a little girl, her family would take her antique shopping — though that was before Snohomish was known as an antiquer’s mecca.

Today, antique shops are among the biggest draws for the city of about 10,000 residents. The city estimates that hundreds of thousands of tourists visit every year, including many from overseas.

“We have people who find us on Instagram from all over,” McIlrath said. “A lot of people come here because we’re known as the antique capitol. It’s been that way forever.”

The customers themselves are a mixed bag: antique hunters, collectors, tourists, locals.

Some know exactly what they’re looking for, while others just like to peruse the aisles.

“People can come in and spend the day and just a see a wide variety of cool stuff,” said Steve Gurney, owner of Antique Station In Victoria Village on First Street. “If that turns them into an antique buyer, great. If not, I’m just happy they had a good day.”

The multilevel Star Center Antique Mall opened in 1982 in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The multilevel Star Center Antique Mall opened in 1982 in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Gurney, 60, opened his two-story shop in 1994 in the former Snohomish hardware store, built in 1905. Antiques in his store range in price from $1 to $10,000, though most items are $100 or less.

Gurney’s most expensive item is a 1800s China display with inlaid wood and triple curved glass made by a designer famous for building furniture for Queen Victoria.

“It’s beautiful,” Gurney said. “My wife says I’m going to be buried in it.”

Star Center Antique Mall is the largest antiques seller in town. It’s housed in a 1928 building that was once an armory for the American Legion.

More than 200 dealers sell glass art, vintage toys, estate jewelry and antique collectibles at the mall. It also is home to the largest antique-reference bookstore in the Pacific Northwest, with more than 10,000 books on its shelves.

“We’re really one of those places that you can ask for anything under the sun,” owner Tim Regan said.

McIlrath of Faded Elegance travels all over the world to find her antiques.

“I love European flair,” she said.

An Old Weest sheriff cartoon figurine on display at the Star Center Antique Mall. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

An Old Weest sheriff cartoon figurine on display at the Star Center Antique Mall. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Some of her most treasured items are from France. She sells French linen, chairs, mirrors and cabinets. She also frequently sells demijohns, which are old French wine bottles covered in wicker.

During an antique hunting trip in San Francisco, she found French-style sofas with carved gold legs — called settees — made for a 1920s movie set.

“I brought them home and posted them in the front window,” McIlrath said. “I thought no one would ever buy them. Somebody bought them that same day.”

In addition to her French collection, McIlrath also has one-of-a-kind items such as an antique farm table made of old barn wood, vintage cocktail ware and English ironstone tableware.

“I love to see the customers’ reactions,” she said.

“I’ve been doing this for so long that over the years, they’ve decorated their house with items from the store, so it feels like my home, too.

“It’s a special feeling.”

Star Center Antique Mall features one of the largest Fenton collections in the state. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Star Center Antique Mall features one of the largest Fenton collections in the state. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Washington North Coast Magazine

This article is featured in the winter issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.

Talk to us

More in Life

The Gothard Sisters will perform at the Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater on Sept. 19 in Snohomish. From left, Greta, Solana and Willow Gothard. (Ruth Vanden Bos)
Edmonds’ Gothard Sisters return to stage with new original music

The trio’s songs include one inspired by an Old West legend. You can hear them Sept. 19 in Snohomish.

Quinn Fitzgerald
New hosts take the reins at Everett’s weekly comedy showcase

Adam Tiller and Quinn “Lil’ Q” Fitzgerald now host the Monday-night stand-up sessions at Tony V’s in Everett.

Andy Bronson / The Herald
The Tokyo Classic burger is the most popular menu item at Katsu Burger, because it’s the most like an American burger, business owner Hannah Ha says.
Now you can make Katsu Burger’s best-selling burger at home

Chef-owner Hannah Ha of the Lake Stevens store says the Tokyo Classic is the most popular menu item.

A tray of grilled delights; clockwise from top right, Cheeseburgers, Mustard-Lime Steak, Tandoori Chicken, and Grilled Asparagus With Olive Oil and Parmesan, on Wednesday, August 11, 2021. (Colter Peterson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)
Make it count: We have one last weekend of summertime grilling

There’s still time for you to grill asparagus, cheeseburgers, tandoori chicken and mustard lime steaks.

Chicken thighs braised in hard cider with Brussels sprouts and apples makes an easy one-pan fall dinner. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)
Eat This: Cider-braised chicken with apples and Brussels sprouts

Braising the chicken in hard cider — the alcohol cooks off — amplifies its seasonal flavor and adds a subtle sweetness.

Cathy Richardson is lead vocalist of Jefferson Starship, which is scheduled to perform Sept. 17 at the Historic Everett Theatre. (Associated Press)
All about music: Schedule of concerts around Snohomish County

The listings include Sir Mix-a-Lot, ZZ Top and Bands, Brews and Bowling at Evergreen Lanes in Everett.

Ian Terry / The Herald

Christa and Richard Porter, of The Porters, play a set at the Black Lab Gallery during the Fisherman's Village Music Festival in Everett on Friday, March 31, 2017.

Photo taken on 03312017
Where to hear live music in Snohomish County nightclubs

The listings include Engel’s Pub, Mirkwood Public House and Port Gardner Bay Winery shows.

The 2022 Kia Carnival has front-wheel drive, three rows, and placing for seven or eight passengers, depending on seat configuration. (Kia) 20210913
Kia replaces Sedona minivan with all-new 2022 Carnival MPV

Do similarities to the brand’s current boxy SUVs justify the new nomenclature? Kia says yes.

This delicious--and labor intensive--strawberry salad with Dungeness crab was worth the drive to The Loft, in Poulsbo. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Are you vaccinated and ready to dine out? Not so fast

Here are six things to consider — all due to labor shortages — before you visit your favorite restaurant.

Most Read