The remade Marsh building blows minds.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
To enter Orientations Fine Asian Antiques, the 80-year-old palatial Northern Chinese structure at Fremont Street and Camino El Estero in Monterey, one must ring a bell and wait for an employee to open huge glass doors. Beyond the entrance is a 10-foot wall erected by the structure’s original owner/builder, George Turner Marsh. According to sales associate Marilyn George, Marsh subscribed to the Chinese belief, that harmful spirits cannot turn corners.
Behind the wall, which is nicely appointed by Ming Dynasty artwork, beckons a Japanese courtyard garden where delicate Japanese maples thrived without attention for almost seven years (when the Diocese of Monterey owned the building from 1999 to 2005). Stone “Fu Dogs” watch the trees, the koi pond and any movement in the garden.
The Marsh building is also guarded by Jerry Janssen, who purchased the structure in 2006 with his business partner Russell Young. “It could have been a parking lot,” he says.
Janssen has long been enchanted by the building. “At 8 I told my mom that I wanted to own it,” he says.
To see the structure decay distressed Janssen for many years; the renovation took two and a half. The result is a tasteful showroom divided into areas where antiques are displayed by origin and medium.
The Jade Vault, built by G.T. Marsh, is where the most valuable jade pieces in Orientations’ collection are kept. The room faintly glows from the light of a hand-blown glass chandelier that evokes jellyfish.
Janssen’s pride in the refurbishment of the Marsh building is well-deserved and self-evident. “This is the biggest, most beautiful Asian art store in all the world,” he beams.