Seymour Durst

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Seymour B. Durst
Born (1913-09-07)September 7, 1913
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Died May 15, 1995(1995-05-15) (aged 81)
New York, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Ethnicity Jewish
Education B.A. University of Southern California
Spouse(s) Bernice Herstein (m. 1940; died 1950)
Children Douglas Durst
Robert Durst
Thomas Durst
Wendy Durst Kreeger
Parents Joseph Durst
Rose Friedwald

Seymour B. Durst (September 7, 1913 – May 15, 1995) was an American real estate investor and developer. He was also a philanthropist and the inventor of the National Debt Clock.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Seymour was born in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City.[1] He is the son of Joseph Durst, a Jewish immigrant from Gorlice, Galicia, Austria-Hungary, and Rose Friedwald.[2][3] His father was a tailor who arrived penniless to the United States eventually becoming a successful dress manufacturer and then expanding into real estate management and development.[2] His father was also very active in the Jewish community, serving on the executive committee of the Jewish Education Association and serving as president of the Hebrew Free Loan Society for 27 years.[2] He has four siblings: Roy, Alma, Edwin and David.[1][2]

In 1931, Seymour graduated from the Horace Mann School in Riverdale, the Bronx. In 1935, he graduated from the University of Southern California, where he majored in accounting.[1]


In 1940, Durst joined the real estate firm, The Durst Organization, which had been founded by his father. After his father's death in 1974, Seymour took control of the company. The company invested in Manhattan real estate, based upon Durst's belief that one should never buy anything one cannot walk to.[1]

Durst was vocal about his beliefs that the government should not interfere in real estate transactions. He was also concerned with the ballooning national debt. In 1989, Durst created and installed the National Debt Clock on a Durst Organization property in order to draw attention to the then $2.7 trillion debt.[4]

Personal life[edit]

In 1940, he married Bernice Herstein. They had four children:

  • Douglas Durst – the present chairman of the Durst Organization
  • Robert Durst – Robert Durst was implicated in three separate murders, which are fictionalized in the 2010 movie All Good Things.
  • Thomas Durst
  • Wendy Durst Kreeger

His wife died in 1950 at age 32 by falling or jumping off the roof of their family mansion in Scarsdale. It was never determined if the death was an accident or a suicide. Their son Robert witnessed the event. Durst never remarried.[5]


After Seymour Durst's death, his son Douglas and nephew Jonathan (the son of his brother David) took over control of the family business, The Durst Organization.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Oser, Alan S. (May 20, 1995). "Seymour B. Durst, Real-Estate Developer Who Led Growth on West Side, Dies at 81". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c d e The Durst Organization: Timeline retrieved July 8, 2012
  3. ^ The Durst Organization: "Taking the Helm to Change City Landscape" retrieved July 8, 2012
  4. ^ Daniels, Lee A. (November 8, 1991). "Chronicle". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  5. ^ Traub, James (October 6, 2002). "The Dursts Have Odd Properties". New York Times Magazine.
  6. ^ Forbes: Family Fortunes 1998

Further reading[edit]

  • Traub, James (2007). "The Dursts Have Some Very Unusual Properties". The Devil's Playground: A Century of Pleasure and Profit in Times Square. New York: Random House. pp. 241–254. ISBN 0307432130.