Benjamin Winter

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Benjamin Winter Sr.
Born(1881-02-05)February 5, 1881
DiedJune 16, 1944(1944-06-16) (aged 63)
Occupationreal estate developer
Known forfounder of Winter Incorporated
Net worth$40 million (1927, equivalent to $0.5 billion in 2018)
Spouse(s)Dora Winter
ChildrenBenjamin Winter Jr.
Marvin S. Winter
Beatrice Winter Spitz
Ethel Winter Schanzer
Natalie Winter Ballen

Benjamin Winter Sr. (February 5, 1881 – June 16, 1944)[1] was a real estate developer in New York City and founder of Winter Incorporated.

Winter served as president of the American Federation of Polish Jews.[2]


Born in Łódź, Poland,[1] to a Jewish family, Winter emigrated in 1901 to New York City, one year after his father.[3][4][5][6] His father took on a tour of Manhattan, showing him the lavish Vanderbilt and Astor houses which Winter was to eventually own.[3][7] After saving for 12 years,[4] Winter in 1912[6] used the proceeds as a painter of tenements[8] to buy tenements in lower Manhattan.[4] The following year, he and Scotch-Irishman Andrew O'Brien bought their first apartment building, in Washington Heights.[6] The venture was successful and Winter soon after started his own company funded by his share of the profits and investors in the Polish Jewish community, he invested in mid-Manhattan where he targeted the great mansions of Fifth Avenue for redevelopment.[4][9] In 1925, he purchased the Mrs. William B. Astor House and later demolished it;[4] in 1929, it was replaced with the new Congregation Emanu-El of New York[10] (In 1926, Winter had previously purchased[11] and sold the old Temple Emanu-El building at 5th Avenue and 43rd Street which was demolished and replaced in 1927 with a commercial building by its subsequent owner Joseph Durst).[12][13][14] Also in 1925, he purchased the William K. Vanderbilt House and demolished it replacing it with a residential high rise.[4][15][16] By tearing down the mansions, Winter along with fellow real estate speculator Frederick Brown, were credited with transforming that section of Fifth Avenue into "the aristocrat of shopping thoroughfares."[17] In 1927, he formed Winter Incorporated and offered preferred shares on the New York Stock Exchange which enabled him to raise funds for larger projects.[4] He went bankrupt in 1937 during the Great Depression losing his entire $40 million (equivalent to $0.5 billion in 2018[18]) in wealth,[19][20] although he recovered most of his wealth by his death in 1944.[4][21]

He was known for having the ability to identify under-valued properties in up-and-coming neighborhoods, making a purchase, and then selling them later for a tidy profit.[3] Within 20 years, he became the most prolific realtor in New York City with over $500 million sales.[3][22] His portfolio of prominent properties came to include the Hotel Delmonico,[23] the Stanhope Hotel,[24] the Hotel Lenori,[3] the Spanish Flats (which he later demolished),[25][26] Bretton Hall,[24] the Gunther Building,[27] the Hotel Claridge,[28] Hotel Hermitage,[22] and many residential properties along Park and Fifth Avenues.[3]

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Dora Winter;[29] they had five children: Benjamin Winter Jr., Marvin S. Winter, Beatrice Winter Spitz, Ethel Winter Schanzer, and Natalie Winter Ballen.[30][31] In the 1950s, his son Marvin turned the company from an opportunistic buyer and seller of real estate to a long-term holder.[3][30] After Marvin's death, his sons Benjamin Winter and James Winter took over the family business.[3][31][32] Later, Benjamin's son, David S. Winter, joined the business.[33]


  1. ^ a b American Jewish Archives: "Winter, Benjamin; b. Lodz, Feb 5 1881; d. NYC, June 16, 1944 To US 1901. Realtor, communal ldr, philanthropist, NYC; pres Fedn of Polish Jews of Am; exec bd Zionist Org of Am; officer Am Jewish Congo" retrieved May 24, 2016
  2. ^ New York Times: "Dr. Joseph Tenenbaum was elected to succeed the late Benjamin Winter as president of the American Federation of Polish Jews" June 19, 1944
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Real Estate Weekly: "Great Real Estate Families" August 20, 2005
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Miller, Donald L. Supreme City: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America
  5. ^ New Yorker: "Benjamin Winter" May 8, 1926
  6. ^ a b c Busch, Niven 21 Americans
  7. ^ Canadian Jewish Chronicle: "My Rise to Fifth Avenue" by Benjamin Winter October 15, 1926
  8. ^ Winter Properties website: History retrieved October 12, 2014
  9. ^ New York Times: "Fifth Avenue Changes Have Their Philosophy; Benjamin Winter" By C. G. Poore September 16, 1928 | Whose Real Estate Deals Caused Famous old Mansions to Be Torn Down for Skyscrapers, Views His Work as a apart of the City's Progress
  10. ^ Time: "Religion: Temple" December 07, 1925
  11. ^ New York Times: "Winter Buys Back Temple Emanu-El; Ward Drops Deal for 5th Av. and 43d St. Property and Loses $450,000 in Settlement. Says It Was Private Flyer. Building Is Found to Jut a Foot Over Building Line, So Winter Shaves Its Facade" May 05, 1926
  12. ^ The San Bernardino County Sun: "N. Y. Church Site Sold for $7,000,000 for Skyscraper Use" December 15, 1926 | Temple Emanu-El, at the north-cast corner of Forty-third street, conceded to be one of the most Valuable parcels of real estate of Its size In the world, has been sold to Joseph Durst, vice president of the Capital National bank, at a valuation of $7,000,000, almost $370 a square foot. Mr. Durst plans to erect a 40-story office building on the site when he gains possession In May, 1928. The temple was purchased from the congregation last January by Benjamin Winter, real estate dealer, for $6,500,000.
  13. ^ Daytonian in Manhattan: "The Lost 1868 Temple Emanu-El – 5th Avenue and 43rd Street March 12, 2012
  14. ^ The Museum of the City of New York: "Temple Emanu-El" by Lauren Robinson October 11, 2011
  15. ^ Daytonian in Manhattan: "The Lost Wm. K. Vanderbilt Mansion – 660 5th Avenue" Monday, June 16, 2014
  16. ^ New York Evening Post: "Architectural Landmark Doomed" May 21, 1925
  17. ^ Entrepreneur Magazine: "Built for Business: Midtown Manhattan in the 1920s" retrieved November 11, 2014
  18. ^ Thomas, Ryland; Williamson, Samuel H. (2019). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved April 6, 2019. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth series.
  19. ^ New York Times: "Winter Bankrupt in $8,542,736 Crash; Immigrant House Painter Who Built $40,000,000 Fortune Says He Has No Assets SECOND FINANCIAL FAILURE He Changed Fifth Avenue by Buying Mansions to Sell Sites for Apartments" November 17, 1937
  20. ^ "40 Million Dollar Fortune Gone; Owes Banks $8,542,736". Dunkirk Evening Observer. November 17, 1937. p. 9. Retrieved August 24, 2016 – via open access
  21. ^ New York Times: "Benj. Winter Dies; Realty Operator; Vlade and Lost Many Millions Here – Bought Astor and Vanderbilt Mansions" June 17, 1944
  22. ^ a b New York Times: "Hotel Hermitage Bought By Winter; Parcel Adjoining Seventh Av. and Forty-second St. Sold by Greenwich Savings Bank. Mortgage At 4% Given. Times Square Neighborhood on Upward Trend, With Many Improvements Under Way" March 15, 1933. Benjamin Winter, one of the largest and most active real estate operators during the boom days in Manhattan
  23. ^ New York Times: "New Park Av. Hotel is Sold to Winter; Germanic Trust Resells 32 Story Delmonico at Cornerof Fifty-ninth Street. It Was Held at $5,500,000. Deals Involving Other Housing Properties in Various Sections of Manhattan Announced." March 20, 1929
  24. ^ a b New York Times: "Banks Get Hotels For Winter's Debts; Bank of United States and 3 Others Acquire Bretton Hall, Stanhope and Other Realty. Get Delmonico Interest Release Some of Properties Now Held for $2,090,330 Indebtedness – Court Approves Settlement." December 3, 1932
  25. ^ New York Times: "Wreckers Start on 'Spanish Flats'; Razing of New York's First de Luxe Apartments, Near Park, Follows Sale. They Were Built in 1882. 40-Story Building and New York Athletic Club to Rise on Site – Deal involves $20,000,000." October 3, 1926
  26. ^ New York Times: "When Spain Reigned on Central Park South" by Christopher Gray June 17, 2007
  27. ^ Gunther Building In $1,500,000 Deal, New York Times, February 19, 1929, pg. 58.
  28. ^ New York Times: "$3,000,000 Is Paid for Hotel Claridge; Times Square Property Passes from du Pont Interests to Real Estate Operator." May 24, 1923
  29. ^ New York Times: "Natalie Ballen – Obituary" October 19, 2015
  30. ^ a b New York Times: "Marvin S. Winter, 78, Manhattan Developer" May 16, 1999
  31. ^ a b New York Times: "Paid Notice: Deaths – Winter, Marvin S." May 10, 1999
  32. ^ Commercial Observer: "To REIT or Not To REIT: The Question – The Winter Organization's Leasing Director Robert Fink on transitioning from REIT to family owned firm and repositioning 423 West 55th Street" by Daniel Edward Rosen March 21, 2012
  33. ^ New York Times: "Elizabeth Heyman and David Winter" September 18, 2005