He’s filled his home with so many antiques and decorations — a champagne chiller from the Queen Mary, a silver bowl from the Titanic, his 20 trademark Christmas trees — that he’s lost count of some of it.
Like the number of porcelain rabbits that seem to keep multiplying in his third-floor apartment.
And he’s hosted so many private parties and fundraisers that he’s lost count of some of those, too.
But Jack Saltzman has kept records on all of the history he’s collected from Lincoln’s most prominent people, and places.
A pair of empire couches and an 84-year-old record player — “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” still on the turntable — from the Woods home on Sheridan Boulevard.
The chandelier from the family that opened Gold’s downtown department store.
A towering china cabinet from Bennett Martin’s home on South Street.
Silver service for 150, with a pair of serpentine-front cabinets, from the DuTeau home.
The mahogany coffee table that served as the governor’s desk — before Frank Morrison ordered its legs sawed short.
All of the furniture from the Presidential Suite in the old Cornhusker Hotel.
He looks around at his tables hidden by trees, cabinets filled with English silver, walls covered in Dresden china, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, his 50 years of gathering.
“I have things from all the old families in Lincoln.”
The collector and decorator started young, as a teenager in Tekamah. If you want antiques, his family told him, buy your own — because we all live past 100.
In Lincoln, he became a fixture at Dionne DeVriendt’s invitation-only estate sales.
“This was for the best of the best stuff,” he said. “A lot of people had wonderful houses with wonderful things, and they didn’t want a ton of people tromping through.”
Some pieces were priced high, he said, and some low: It depended on whether sellers wanted to make money or just make room. But he paid what they were asking, because he saw the need to protect pieces from the city’s famous families.
“I realized early on if someone didn’t buy these things, they’d disappear from Lincoln.”
He didn’t just hoard the stuff, he said. He used what he bought. He overflowed his apartment and the building’s attic and covered it all in permanent Christmas décor and became famous for his private parties and holiday fundraisers.
For the past 35 years, he’s raised thousands for Cedars, Fresh Start, Cause for Paws, Lincoln’s PFLAG chapter and other groups.
But in December, he went to someone else’s party, a fundraiser for Cedars Youth Services in a cavernous, corner home on South 25th Street.
Known as the Yost House — named for John Yost, the lumberyard owner who built it in 1912 — the 7,000-square-foot home was designed by the same architect who drew the plans for the Seward County Courthouse and Lincoln High School.
Yost, a Russian immigrant who started out earning 75 cents an hour at a Wisconsin lumberyard and would eventually own 16 yards in eastern Nebraska, hadn’t compromised.
He wanted wood from all the continents, and he wrapped the formal dining room in African mahogany, its foyer in oak. He showcased its electrical wiring with glass-covered, marble-lined fuse boxes. He installed pocket doors and leaded windows and beamed ceilings.
The house is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Saltzman realized he had been there before.
In 1976, he’d emptied the formal dining room during a sale, hauling home the 8-foot mahogany table, eight Chippendale-style chairs, buffet and side table. It was all original to the house — the buffet’s drawer pulls matched the room’s built-in cabinet, the tablecloth mirrored the light fixtures, the wood was the same.
“I actually felt guilty buying it out of that house,” he said. “It belonged there.”
At the party, Saltzman told the owner of the Yost House he owned its dining room set.
Dallas Jones wasn’t expecting that. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me? That makes my heart hurt. Any chance you’d sell it back to me?’”
Jones and his wife, Tish Gade-Jones, bought the Yost House in 1998 and have spent more than a decade restoring it. The kitchen, for example, had been renovated in the 1970s, and it looked like it had been renovated in the 1970s.
Saltzman doesn’t want to talk money, at least not in detail. The dining room set is likely worth tens of thousands, he said, but he sold it to Jones for what he paid for it 38 years ago — somewhere in the four figures.
A moving crew took it home earlier this year.
Dallas and Tish moved their old table to the basement.
“It didn’t have the character, didn’t have the look. You could tell it wasn’t made to be in here,” he said.
And Saltzman started thinking about some of his other antiques, what they mean to Lincoln’s history, and what they mean to the families that remember them.
He’s welcomed so many people into his home that he’s had guests recognize pieces from their past.
“I always thought some of the things I’ve purchased should go back to the families and the houses. But I’ve never acted on it until now.”