Jeffrey Martin Arnstein, an antique restorer who was a mentor to at-risk Baltimore teens, dies – Baltimore Sun
Jeffrey Martin Arnstein, an antique restorer who was a mentor to at-risk Baltimore youth, died of cancer at his home in Towson on July 30. He was 75.
Mr. Arnstein relocated to Baltimore nearly 15 years ago after a busy career in Connecticut and opened a home studio in Baltimore County’s Murray Hill area.
Among other things, he made an 1830s staircase in the Howard Street shop of the antique dealer Robert Quilter. He also worked with Sumpter Priddy, a trader from Ashland, Virginia.
“My father made the transition from a restoration workshop to working on site for his clients. He loved this work,” said his daughter Ellen Arnstein. “He loved being in people’s homes and learning about the lives of his clients.”
“He was very interested in the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum,” said his partner Jane Lambdin D’Ambrogi.
He also worked on the restoration of the St. Thomas Synagogue in the US Virgin Islands.
“My father seriously made his way from Judaism to Buddhism to Unitarian Universalism,” said his daughter Ellen Arnstein. “And he practiced anti-racism and anti-Zionism with passionate devotion.”
“He was dedicated to racial justice and affirming that Black Lives Matter is,” said his minister, the Rev. Clare Petersberger. “Not only did he speak it, he acted on it and was part of the Mentoring Male Teens in the Hood program. He was outgoing and generous with his time and expertise. He had a great sense of humor. He was a sweet soul. He wanted his legacy to be kindness. That was a word he chose.”
Mr. Arnstein volunteered at Earl’s Place, a men’s convalescent center. He also taught at Reading Partners Baltimore.
He volunteered to make minor repairs to the Federal Period furniture collection of Charles Carroll Jr.’s 1801 country house on the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University.
“I met Jeffrey shortly after he arrived in Baltimore. His excitement at discovering Homewood and his Baltimore furniture collections was evident. He quickly volunteered to help and edit several pieces that had been sun bleached and had finishing issues,” said Catherine Rogers Arthur, director of artistic property at the Maryland State Archives.
Born in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx, New York, he was the son of Henry Arnstein, an insurance inspector, and Elvira, a medical secretary. He attended New York schools and earned a degree in anthropology and biology from Queens College on a scholarship.
During the Vietnam War he was a conscientious objector and taught at a public school in Harlem. He served in the Peace Corps.
Mr. Arnstein opened a small antique and jewelry store on New York City Island and soon began restoring furniture.
“He seemed really fond of working with his hands. He started the business alone and it became his life’s work,” said his son Reid Arnstein.
“He taught me and my brother to love and honor the forest and to care for others even when they don’t seem to care,” said his daughter Ellen.
Mr. Arnstein learned his trade and started a restoration business in the Colt Building in Hartford, Connecticut.
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“His shop was packed with the highest quality pieces in the industry waiting to be revived,” his daughter said. “It has also been a gathering place for respected collectors, dealers and industry curators, as well as an exciting gathering place for many of Hartford’s artists and makers.”
His daughter said Mr Arnstein has worked for auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s, as well as the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, the Lyman Allyn Art Museum and the Connecticut Old State House.
“His work was nothing short of magic,” said his daughter. “He was revered – he was part chemist, part wood mage. Although he was color blind, he could tell a difference in hue. He had trainees who were his fact-checkers, but he got it right.”
As a young man, he hiked large sections of the Appalachian Trail for months. He stayed with a family for a night and adopted a donkey that belonged to them.
“My father never knew what happened to the donkey,” his daughter said.
A celebration of his life will be held at noon on September 10 at Towson Unitarian Universalist Church.
Survivors include his partner Jane Lambdin D’Ambrogi; a daughter, Ellen Arnstein of East Granby, Connecticut; and a son, Reid Arnstein of Port Monmouth, New Jersey.