Jeffrey Martin Arnstein, an antiques 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 teens, died of cancer July 30 at his Towson home. He was 75 years old.
Mr. Arnstein, after a busy career in Connecticut, moved to Baltimore nearly 15 years ago and established a home studio in the Murray Hill section of Baltimore County.
Among his projects, he restored an 1830s staircase in the shop of Howard Street antique dealer Robert Quilter. He also worked with Sumpter Priddy, a dealership in Ashland, Virginia.
“My dad went from a restoration shop to doing on-site work for his clients. He loved that job,” said his daughter, Ellen Arnstein. “He loved being in people’s homes and learning more about his clients’ lives.”
“He had a great interest in the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum,” said his life partner, Jane Lambdin D’Ambrogi.
He also worked on the restoration of St. Thomas Synagogue in the US Virgin Islands.
“My father sincerely found his way from Judaism to Buddhism to Unitarian Universalism,” said his daughter, Ellen Arnstein. “And he practiced anti-racism and anti-Zionism with fierce devotion.”
“He was dedicated to racial justice and affirmation that Black Lives Matter,” said his minister, the Reverend Clare Petersberger. “He didn’t just say it, he acted on it and participated in 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 gentle soul. He wanted his legacy to be kindness. It’s a word he chose.
Mr. Arnstein volunteered at Earl’s Place, a recovery center for men. He also taught at Reading Partners Baltimore.
He volunteered to do minor repairs to the collection of Federal period furniture at Charles Carroll Jr.’s 1801 country home on Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus.
“I met Jeffrey shortly after he arrived in Baltimore. His enthusiasm for discovering Homewood and its Baltimore furniture collections was evident. He quickly volunteered to help and deal with several pieces that had been sun bleached and had finishing issues,” said Catherine Rogers Arthur, Director of Artistic Property at the State Archives of Maryland.
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 schools in New York and earned a degree in anthropology and biology at 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 shop on City Island in New York and soon began refinishing furniture.
“He really seemed to like working with his hands. He started the business on his own and it became his life’s interest,” said his son, Reid Arnstein.
“He taught me and my brother to love and honor the woods of the forest and to care for others even if they don’t seem to care for you,” his daughter, Ellen, said.
Mr. Arnstein learned his trade and started a catering business in the Colt Building in Hartford, Connecticut.
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“Her shop was filled with high-end pieces from the industry waiting to be relaunched,” her daughter said. “It was also a hub for respected collectors, dealers and curators of the trade, as well as an exciting meeting place for many of Hartford’s artists and designers.”
His daughter said Mr. Arnstein worked for auctioneers 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.
“Her work was nothing short of magic,” her daughter said. “He was revered – he was part chemist and part wood magician. Even though he was color blind, he could see a difference in hue. He had apprentices who were his fact checkers, but he got it right.
As a young man, he spent months hiking large sections of the Appalachian Trail. He spent a night with a family and ended up adopting a donkey they owned.
“My dad was never clear on the specifics of what happened to the donkey,” his daughter said.
A celebration of his life will be held at noon on September 10 at the Towson Unitarian Universalist Church.
Survivors include his partner, Jane Lambdin D’Ambrogi; one daughter, Ellen Arnstein of East Granby, Connecticut; and one son, Reid Arnstein of Port Monmouth, New Jersey.