Saturday, August 1, 2015

His wildly eclectic interior

Rancher has Asian art, pink kitchen cabinets, and a Rolls-Royce Phantom grille on a wall.

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Jack Weinstein sits in his Asian inspired livingroom with his dog DJ. (Ron Tarver / Staff Photographer)
Jack Weinstein sits in his Asian inspired livingroom with his dog DJ. (Ron Tarver / Staff Photographer)
Jack Weinstein sits in his Asian inspired livingroom with his dog DJ. (Ron Tarver / Staff Photographer) Gallery: Haven: Jack Weinstein's Rhawnhurst home

Jack L. Weinstein - collector of Asian tchotchkes and art, amateur (sometimes professional) photographer, retired TV-repair shop owner, bonsai gardener, amateur genealogist, and toy-castle collector - is a character.

How else to describe a 73-year-old man who keeps a copy of Howard Stern's Private Parts, Alistair Cooke's America, and his father's gallstones and mother's false teeth all on one shelf? Let alone a man who owns a 1981 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur that he stores near his twin rancher in Northeast Philadelphia?

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Many of the good folks featured in this spot are couples, but Weinstein is, in his words, a born-again bachelor. A trim, fit-looking man ("I eat nothing but slop," he jokes), Weinstein bought his home in 1999 - not to remodel this or to gut that, but to show off his many interests, primarily his genealogy and Asian collections, both of which are fairly extensive.

He has done relatively little to the house itself, other than install new rugs - blue out, off-white in - and rehab the kitchen. The blue rugs in the living room wouldn't have worked with his collections, he says.

In the bedroom, the living room, and the dining room - now converted into a sitting area with a 55-gallon aquarium - are pieces from the Asian collection.

Some he bought at estate sales, others at garage sales. And, he says, "I used to go to the flea market at the Roosevelt Mall."

His favorite piece hangs in the living room: a bronze of a face that came from Japan, but that Weinstein bought at an estate sale. His coffee table also is distinctive: Underneath the glass is a three-dimensional wood carving of what appears to be a Japanese court scene.

Nearby is a Chinese wash stand, which Weinstein bought in a shop; it's said to be from Shandong Province, late 19th century.

His bonsai plants consume the windowsills, scissors close by for trimming and snipping as needed. It's a hobby Weinstein adopted 40 years ago - he says he just likes the miniature plants.

For the kitchen's makeover, Weinstein says, he wanted something bright, so he had the cabinets resurfaced in a very pale pink. The linoleum flooring: the same color. The effect: soothing.

The refrigerator is covered with photographs he has taken. Though Weinstein retired when he was 56 - he says he made shrewd investments - he has not sat still since.

More proof of that comes next on the tour. In what once was a bedroom, Weinstein has installed what he calls a shrine to himself.

On the far wall are the bookshelves with the Stern and Cooke books, and the display cases containing his parents' personal belongings. But considerable real estate also is dedicated to genealogy - there are binders filled with information about his family's past. And on a wall hangs a grille from a 1952 Rolls-Royce Phantom.

And then there's a surprise: a billy club and handcuffs. Weinstein was a Philadelphia police officer for 18 months, back in the early 1960s. He loved it, he says; his wife at the time didn't.

Maybe she was right. "The first time I stopped a car, I was shaking," he says.

Across from the "shrine" is the hall bathroom, which Weinstein has converted into a miniature garden. The tub is full of plants.

But the bathroom's best features, true 1970s Northeast Philly art deco, are the toilet seat and the wallpaper. The seat is multicolored - orange, yellow, and bits of maybe green - and the paper is gloriously foiled.

In Weinstein's office, another converted bedroom, he keeps the huge desk from his TV-repair shop. It has nostalgia written all over it: a large Formica top and plenty of drawers. Parts of various collections sit atop it and on shelves behind it - castles and miniature Rolls-Royces.

Why the preoccupation with the Rolls? "The craftsmanship, the mystique," Weinstein replies.

The master bedroom has an Asian flair, with striped wallpaper and a large Japanese screen facing the bed. A lacquered jewelry box, salvaged from somebody's trash can, sits on a bureau.

"You'd be surprised what people throw out," he says.

In the bathroom, decorated in various hues of brown with brown carpeting, are more Rolls-Royces, or at least photos of them. Impressions of Weinstein's teeth, primarily taken for crowns, grace the toilet tank.

What attracted Weinstein to the rancher, in no small part, was its large rec room and the ample wall space descending to it, now covered with photos of his family - and his mother's and father's.

"As a Jew, you can't go back too far," he says. On his father's side, he goes back to 1820, to Govodnitza in the Ukraine. His mother's people, the Levins, came from Lithuania. All tailors, they immigrated to Philadelphia before World War I.

They probably never imagined their grandson would one day own a Rolls.

"I had the money in the bank," he says. "I said, 'Buying a Rolls, I would get more pleasure from that than the interest [the money] gives me.' "


Is your house a Haven?

Tell us about your haven by e-mail (and send some digital photographs) at properties@phillynews.com.

For The Inquirer
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