Published: February 15, 2022
CONCORD, N.H. — On January 25, Mark Paul Allen passed away in a hospice house in Concord at the age of 78; the cause of death was old age.
Mark was born on January 10, 1944, in New York City, the eldest son of Merton Allen and Regina Gartstein. His father was a stockbroker, his mother was a housewife.
Mark did his undergraduate work at Lehman College in New York City, later studying neuropharmacology at Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y. Teaching was his vocation; he loved sharing his knowledge of pieces with friends, colleagues, and clients.
Mark married his high school sweetheart, Marjorie Sokoloff, who he met in typing class, on October 27, 1965. When she died in November 2014, the couple had been married for 49 years. The couple began to collect early in their marriage, drawn to early American, English and Continental decorative arts, and American art pottery. Mark was doing product development for General Foods when he found some objects he loved, did some research and sold them for a profit. From then on, he was hooked on dealing antiques. By 1968, he was in a by-appointment shop in Putnam Valley, N.Y. In the early 1970s, he dealt primarily in the summer around his graduate teaching schedule at Einstein College of Medicine but by 1975, he discovered he could make more money dealing antiques than teaching so turned to buying and selling antiques full time.
The couple became close friends with other dealers in upstate New York, including Timothy Trace, Michael Dunn, Frank Cowan, Roger Gonzales, Elliott and Grace Snyder and Jonathan Trace.
The Allens moved to Amherst, N.H., in 1995 so that their daughter, Stephanie, could attend an innovative high school there. That year, Marjorie, who had been teaching for 24 years, decided to retire from teaching and joined Mark in the antiques business, though she held board-level volunteer positions for Destination Imagination, an educational problem-solving competition.
His eldest daughter, Stephanie Allen, said that both of her parents loved traveling, gardening and cooking — Mark’s talents as a food chemist lent themselves towards gourmet cooking while Marjorie loved to bake. The family began renting a summer house on Squam Pond, N.H., in 1984, which they rented for 20 years while they looked for a property to purchase where they could build their dream house. They accomplished that in 2004 with the purchase of land in Sandwich, N.H. In 2007, construction was complete on a mountainside retreat overlooking the lake that was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, which they filled with period antiques.
Mark and Marjorie Allen Antiques relocated from Gilford, N.H., to Laconia, N.H., in 2017.
“He was an antiques dealer from the time I was born, Stephanie Allen recalled. “He definitely told me lots of stories. One of his favorite pieces, which he still had when he died, was a North Carolina Chippendale walnut desk.”
Early brass collector and self-described “underground” dealer/picker, Steve Arsenault, was a good friend who saw Mark monthly after he moved to the Lakes Region of the White Mountains; he saw Mark for the last time in the hospital a few weeks before he passed away.
“I have fond memories of my regular visits to Mark’s shop in Laconia. We both shared a similar interest in period antiques, particularly brass and delft. When either of us acquired a choice piece, I would join Mark at his shop to discuss the merits of the latest acquisition.
“Mark was the preeminent expert in delft in this country, and certainly one of the top dealers in brass, as well. I will miss our lively discussions on antiques, politics and many other topics.”
William Wibel, Mark’s brother in-law, shared a family memory. “Mark, Marj, her sister Mykee and I are in Santiago, Chile, waiting to board a cruise through the Beagle Channel to view the glaciers in southern Chile. We arrange travel such that we’re there a few days early to do some buying. Mark knew of some dealers in very early Spanish colonial metal. On his person, Mark has about $10,000 in cash strapped to his waist. Well, as fate would have it, the two of us stepped out of a market after lunch and we were identified as ‘pigeons,’ easy pickings for a band of pick pockets. As soon as we recognized what was happening, we stood back to back and then three guys came at us, circling trying to get at our pockets and Mark’s fanny pack. So, two 64-65-year-old gringos get into a street brawl with guys in their 20s. Mark punched one. I went round and round with the other, ripping his shirt off.
“Marj and Mykee emerged from the market to witness this street fight and start screaming. Finally, a policewoman responds to the commotion and the guys scatter to the wind. Mark got scratched up such that he got an infection and needed new glasses. I managed to escape any great harm. The next day as with any good buying trip, we were back on the hunt, this time with the funds secure with a receipt in the hotel’s vault. We found some great things, but no bargains. At the end of the day, Mark and I forever shared a buying trip experience gone sideways with great memories.”
A memory long-time colleague and friend, Ken Southard, told Mark’s daughter, Stephanie, is an insight to a side of Mark not everyone might have seen. “One day in New York City, while sitting in traffic, your dad put the car in park and got out. People were honking and yelling at us, but undeterred he goes to help an elderly woman that was having a hard time trying to get her cart onto the sidewalk. He helped her then got back in the car without a word and continued on. I never will forget that incident. When I think of Mark it always come to mind.”
One of Mark’s long-time clients — Anna West Winter — remembered first meeting Mark about 30 years ago when she answered an ad of his for a Connecticut River Valley fluted and carved corner cupboard. Although Mark had already sold the cupboard to another client, he offered to help acquire other pieces. When he had the opportunity to buy back the cupboard years later, he called her and was able to place it in her house.
“Having embarked on the moving and restoration of a 1754 Massachusetts Tavern in the early 1990’s, Mark became our advisor and mentor; not only did he facilitate the acquisition of the appropriate Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century objects to transform the house into a home, but, most importantly, he shared his knowledge of the history, the human stories connected with these special pieces — treasures which had successfully survived for centuries. Each one, he would teach us, embodied a testament to life, living and the passage and honoring of time. Mark had a love of history that was nothing short of contagious, and my husband and I proved far from immune.
“Mark’s knowledge of, and passion for, historical artifacts spanned from life-size to miniature. He encouraged us to undertake the acquisition of three Vivien Greene dollhouses from England. After years devoted to their proper restoration, they were finally exhibited at the Concord Museum in 2016. Meeting Mark at the exhibit, there wasn’t a dry eye between us, as we glanced upon the once empty, decrepit houses he had brought across the ocean — now freshly restored, adorned and complete with all the magnificent Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century miniatures he, and his late wife Marjorie, had lovingly searched for and delivered to us over three decades.
“It will be impossible not to think of Mark when placing flowers in the delft finger vase, lighting the trumpet candlestick, resting in the pilgrim chair, dusting the 1618 iron fire back, hand-washing the famille rose dinner plates, or consulting our library of reference books he diligently guided us in collecting. Mark will always have a presence in our home, but his warmth and kindness along with his palpable joy in creating new from old, future from past — will be sorely missed.”
Jonathan Trace, who lived minutes from the Allens in New York State, visited him with Elliott Snyder in early-mid January. “He was a very passionate dealer and a very good and helpful neighbor. I found he had great knowledge, especially on pottery. The last time we saw him, he was feeling better and in good humor; he spoke of moving to Florida to assisted living and coming back to New England later.”
Other than his brother, Alec, Mark is survived by his two daughters, Stephanie (Xavier Becquer) of Pompano Beach, Fla., and Samantha Captain (David) of Weare, N.H. He has no grandchildren.
Mark’s daughters plan to close their parents’ business and will sell the inventory at auction; the business website (www.antiquedelft.com) will be updated once those decisions have been made.
A memorial will be scheduled for the summer of 2022. Donations may be made in his name or memory to the Dana Farber Cancer Center, The Jimmy Fund (https://danafarber.jimmyfund.org).
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