James "Jimmie" Judd, a well-known antiques dealer recalled for his elaborate homes and discerning eye for art, died of prostate cancer Thursday at his Inner Harbor home. He was 82.
Born in Baltimore and raised on East North Avenue at Collington Avenue, he attend city public schools until he was in the eighth grade.
"He was severely dyslexic," said his wife, Barbara Katz Judd, who had owned the old White Coffee Pot restaurant chain. "He was a rags-to-riches story and had a reading disability that he was able to transcend later in life."
Mr. Judd worked at the old Western Electric Point Breeze plant until he joined his father, Amos Judd, a metals plater. He worked with his father at the family's electroplating business on Hollingsworth Street and later on Washington Boulevard in Southwest Baltimore.
In 1976, he closed the plating business and opened Amos Judd & Son Antiques in the 800 block of N. Howard St. along the city's Antique Row. He filled the business with European antique furniture, etchings and paintings. He worked alongside his mother, Catherine, who ran the accounting department.
"He could spot an unusual item from across the room," said Baltimore decorator Rita St. Clair, a friend. "He had an eye that was incredible. He went for the fantastic and the unusual."
Mr. Judd was also known for his homes, which he filled with his collections and opened to photographers and reporters.
"He had a warmth and sincerity. His name was platinum in the industry," said a fellow dealer, Philip Dubey, president of the Antique Row Dealers Association. "He loved what he did and had a positive comment for everyone who walked in his shop."
In a 1986 Baltimore Sun article, Mr. Judd said, "When I was young and poor, I used to walk from East Baltimore to South Baltimore. … I walked through Mount Vernon Place and told myself one day I would live around here."
About 30 years ago, Mr. Judd realized his dream by moving into the Washington Apartments facing the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon. He filled it with the European paintings and antiques he had collected.
"The symmetrical dining room, with its creamy colors and gracious proportions, is the place to display a 200-piece collection of Royal Crown Derby English porcelain," said a 1989 Sun article.
After the death of his first wife, the former Myra Gaston, in 1983, Mr. Judd left Mount Vernon and relocated to the Inner Harbor.
"We met for the first time after her death," said his wife. "He told me he loved to dance. He called me the next day, and our first dance was at the Suburban Club. We had a great love story."
The couple were among the first residents at Scarlett Place on Pratt Street. They bought a 3,800-square-foot penthouse that overlooked the harbor and added terraced gardens. After filling it with French antiques, Mr. Judd called it "Versailles in the Sky." The apartment appeared on the cover of Southern Accents magazine.
The apartment had a 17th-century Italian sunburst on the ceiling that "set the tone for a black marble floor and French wall tapestries," a Sun article said. A Latin motto, "Nobis Habitatio Felix," or "Our Happy Home," was written above the front door's threshold.
"I have been 32 years in the antique business and have always loved the beauty of Italian Renaissance villas," he told a Sun reporter in 1995.
Mr. Judd's designers added red marble columns, beveled glass doors and intricate lighting to showcase his collection of paintings.
"I knew where all of my works of art would be set up three years before we moved in. ... My dream is to be surrounded by art. We shut the doors and we're in Europe," he said.
He said his "particular pride" was a villa-like patio bordering the home on the south, east and west sides. "Terrace gardens of wisteria and jasmine caress cast-iron columns retrieved after the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904," the article said.
Mr. Judd also assisted set designers for films shot in Maryland, including "Guarding Tess" and "12 Monkeys."
He moved the antiques business to Towson, where family members also polish antique brass and repair lamps.
Mr. Judd supported organizations that assisted dyslexia education and tutoring.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday at Sol Levinson and Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road in Pikesville.
In addition to his wife of 24 years, survivors include four sons, Jay T. Judd of Lutherville, Lee Gerstley, Ron Gerstley and Ken Gerstley, all of Baltimore; two daughters, Geri Durham of Towson and Jeanne Weiner of Lutherville; 15 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun