Albert M. Greenfield
|Albert Monroe Greenfield|
August 4, 1887
Lozovata, Podolia Governorate, Russian Empire (currently Vinnytsia Oblast, Ukraine)
|Died||January 5, 1967
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
|Occupation||Realtor, banker, investor, board director, trustee, philanthropist|
Albert Monroe Greenfield (August 4, 1887 – January 5, 1967) was a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based real estate, banking, retailing, hotel, and transportation industry leader. Over time, he became increasingly influential in the civic and philanthropic arenas, and in local and national politics.
Early life and business activities
Greenfield was born Avrahm Gruenfeld  in 1887 to trader Jacob Gruenfeld and wife Esther (née Serody) in Lozovata, a village in what is now south-central Ukraine. Emigrating to New York City in 1896, he and his family (with names anglicized) soon moved to Philadelphia, settling in South Philadelphia where Jacob Greenfield ran a general store and Albert and his siblings attended school. While the younger Greenfield excelled at his studies (eventually gaining admission to the prestigious Central High School), he left high school at age 15 to become a clerk for a prominent local real estate lawyer. In this position, Greenfield found his calling, as he rapidly gained interest in, and knowledge of, the real estate business.
Just two years later, in May 1905, Greenfield opened his own real estate firm, Albert M. Greenfield & Co., at 218 South 4th Street, with $500 that his mother borrowed for him from her brother. The money was rapidly repaid, as Greenfield was earning $60,000 a year by age 23; by 1917, his personal wealth had increased to $15 million. The alliances created through his growing real estate business led to investments in motion picture theaters, building and loan associations, and mortgage financing.
By the early 1920s he controlled 27 building and loan associations. In 1924, Greenfield and his father-in-law Sol C. Kraus formed Bankers Bond & Mortgage Company to handle first mortgages on real estate in Philadelphia. After expanding to the New York City market, the firm was renamed Bankers Bond & Mortgage Company of America. From 1925, until its closing on December 22, 1930 as a result of the crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression, he ran the Bankers Trust Company of Philadelphia. In 1927, Greenfield formed the Bankers Securities Corporation (BSC) for general investment banking and trading in securities, serving as its chairman until March 1959. It eventually became the parent company for virtually all of Greenfield's financial interests, including City Stores Company.
In common with many investors during the Depression, Greenfield was financially wiped out. Worse was to come; after Bankers Trust went under, he took another hit when City Stores was declared insolvent in 1931. However, after Greenfield himself took over the chairmanship of City Stores upon bankruptcy, CSCo realized a profit of $32 million in his first year at its helm, and he never looked back as the company expanded throughout the East Coast over the next 20 years, earning profits in the hundreds of millions of dollars. When asked much later about his negative experiences during the Depression, Greenfield replied, "It wasn't too bad. I've always treated both success and failure as imposters. I like making money, but I can get along without it. I never worried about having it because I knew I could always make more."
Greenfield's reputation for producing results placed him in high demand. He was involved or interested in almost everything, becoming known in his time as "Mr. Philadelphia". At one point in the 1940s, he sat on forty-three boards. A few significant ones included the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company and successor Philadelphia Transportation Company (predecessors of SEPTA), Girard College, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Urban Land Institute, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the American Jewish Tercentenary Committee, the Sesquicentennial Exposition, Albert Einstein Medical Center, and the Federation of Jewish Charities.
Greenfield was also greatly involved in educational endeavors. He served as a trustee of Lincoln University, Temple University, Delaware Valley College of Science and Agriculture, Pennsylvania Military College, the American Heritage Foundation and the Kennedy and Truman Presidential Libraries.
In 1917, Greenfield was elected to a seat on the Philadelphia Common Council and served until 1920. Originally a Republican, he switched parties with the advent of the New Deal and remained a strong Democratic supporter until his death. He enjoyed a close relationship with many Presidents from Herbert Hoover to Lyndon Johnson. Greenfield served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1928 and to the Democratic National Conventions from 1948-1964. He was also a presidential elector in 1956 and 1960. Through his political connections he received appointments to various committees and commissions. These included appointment by Philadelphia Mayor Richardson Dilworth in 1956 as Chairman of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. In order to accept the position, Greenfield had to retire from his real estate business, stepping down on January 1, 1956 after fifty years as head of Albert M. Greenfield & Co. He became a strong advocate of urban renewal. Although on the commission for only a little over a year, his work laid the foundation for the development of Penn Center, Society Hill, the Independence Square area surrounding Independence Hall, and Veterans Stadium. Also because of his political activism, in 1948 Philadelphia hosted both the Republican and the Democratic party conventions.
Philanthropy and legacy
In the early 1950s, Greenfield donated $1 million to the University of Pennsylvania for development of a human relations center. The center was named in his honor, The Albert M. Greenfield Center for Human Relations. It was established to offer graduate and undergraduate instruction on intergroup relations, to advance knowledge in the field of group relations by fostering both basic and applied research, and to provide community service. The Center existed through the late 1960s.
In 1953, he established The Albert M. Greenfield Foundation to provide grants to a variety of local Philadelphia institutions. The Foundation has supported the Albert Monroe Greenfield Memorial Lecture in Human Relations, an annual event at the University of Pennsylvania held under the terms of the endowment of the Greenfield Professorship of Human Relations. The professorship was established in 1972. In 1992, the Foundation endowed The Albert M. Greenfield Student Competition, The Philadelphia Orchestra, to recognize extraordinary young musical talent in the Greater Delaware Valley region. The Foundation has also funded the Albert M. Greenfield Digital Imaging Center at The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the digital and print Albert M. Greenfield Center for 20th-Century History at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
His philanthropic endeavors transcended religious and racial lines. He was praised for his work by such organizations as the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the World Brotherhood Organization, the Urban League, and the Catholic Interracial Council. For his philanthropic work, he was bestowed with the rank of Commander of the Order of Pius IX by Pope Pius XI. He was the first Jew in America to receive such an honor.
The Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School (part of the School District of Philadelphia), located at 22nd and Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, is named in his honor.
Greenfield died on January 5, 1967 at his estate, "Sugar Loaf", in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. He was survived by his third wife, the former Elizabeth Hallstrom, as well as five children (two sons and three daughters) from his first marriage, 21 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The Sugar Loaf estate remained in the hands of the Greenfield Foundation as their headquarters, and as the Albert M. Greenfield Conference Center of Temple University, until 2006 when the entire property was sold for $11 million to Chestnut Hill College.
- "Albert M. Greenfield, Financier, Is Dead at 79". Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. January 5, 1967.
- Boston, Johnny (director). "Mr. Philadelphia: The Film (trailer)". Mr. Philadelphia: The Story of Albert M. Greenfield. Raw Media Network. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Rottenberg, Dan (1983). "The Rise of Albert M. Greenfield". In Murray Friedman (ed.). Jewish life in Philadelphia, 1830-1940. Philadelphia, PA: Institute for the Study of Human Issues. pp. 213–234. ISBN 0897270509.
- "A Philadelphia Legend". The Albert M. Greenfield Foundation. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- "Mr. Philadelphia". The Albert M. Greenfield Foundation. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- University of Pennsylvania, Jerry Lee Center of Criminology website (accessed Sep 1, 2008).
- "Philadelphia Orchestra Albert M. Greenfield Student Competition". Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- "Grant Highlights: The Academy of Natural Sciences Albert M. Greenfield Digital Imaging Center". The Albert M. Greenfield Foundation. Retrieved 23 August 2012.
- "Grant Highlights: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment". The Albert M. Greenfield Foundation. Retrieved 23 August 2012.
- "Albert M. Greenfield Center for 20th-Century History". Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 23 August 2012.
- "Albert M. Greenfield Dies at 79; Built Realty and Store Empire". New York Times. January 6, 1967.
- "Chestnut Hill College buying Sugar Loaf," Philadelphia Business Journal, Apr 14, 2006 (accessed Sep 1, 2008)
- "SugarLoaf Hill". Chestnut Hill College. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- Finding Aid to the Albert M. Greenfield Papers, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Collection 1959 (accessed August 29, 2008).
- Baltzell, E. Digby (1989) Philadelphia Gentlemen: The Making of a National Upper Class, (Transaction Publishers) ISBN 978-0-88738-789-0.
- Albert M. Greenfield & Co., Inc.
- The Albert M. Greenfield Foundation
- The Albert M. Greenfield Papers, including correspondence, news clippings and office files, are available for research use at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.