This month in real estate history

A look back at some of New York City's biggest real estate stories

Sol Goldman
Sol Goldman

1987: Legendary NYC investor Sol Goldman dies

Sol Goldman

Legendary New York City real estate investor Sol Goldman — who amassed a property fortune estimated to be worth $1 billion — died 25 years ago this month at age 70.

The Brooklyn-born Goldman started assembling his real estate fortune in the 1930s during the Great Depression, when he was only 17. Along with his frequent business partner Alex DiLorenzo, Jr., Goldman at one time owned New York trophy properties such as the Chrysler Building and the Stanhope Hotel.

But not all was smooth sailing for the duo. During the high-inflation period of the 1970s, the partnership stumbled. Indeed, in 1975, the year DiLorenzo died, they lost the Chrysler Building and dozens of other properties. But Goldman recovered and began buying again, amassing — by some estimates — as many as 600 buildings.

Goldman’s death fanned an already brewing battle over his estate between his estranged wife, Lilian, on one side and their four children on the other.

Four years after he died, a judge in Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan backed Lilian’s claim for ownership of one-third of the estate. The children had wanted her to get only the income from the one-third of the estate, but not ownership of the properties.

Lilian died at the age of 80 in 2002.


1963: Penn Station demolition begins

Penn Station demolition

The demolition of the monumental Beaux Arts-style Pennsylvania Station began 49 years ago this month.

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The enormous structure, designed by architecture firm McKim, Mead & White, was erected in 1910 between 31st and 33rd streets and Seventh and Eighth avenues.

With the slowdown in train travel, the building’s owner, the Pennsylvania Railroad, was in dire financial straits and wanted to sell the air rights over the tracks to raise money. Simultaneously, Madison Square Garden was looking to relocate from its home on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th streets, so the Garden, through its president Irving Felt, purchased the air rights in 1961. Those air rights gave MSG the right to demolish the original Penn Station and rebuild the Madison Square Garden complex in its place.

The demolition prompted a public outcry. In fact, it is often viewed as one of the key events that built momentum for the preservation movement, which fought to ensure that important city architecture could not be destroyed.

In response to the station’s demolition and others, Mayor Robert Wagner signed the Landmarks Law in April 1965.

The station demolition took three years and was not completed until July 1966. The new Madison Square Garden opened in January 1968.


1883: Met Opera’s first home opens

Metropolitan Opera building

The Metropolitan Opera House Company debuted in its first home 129 years ago this month, with a performance of “Faust.”

The opera company — formed three years earlier as a challenge to the older Academy of Music — erected the seven-story building at 1411 Broadway, which took up the entire block between 39th and 40th streets and Broadway and Seventh Avenue.

At the time, the location was far north of the existing theater district, but closer to the new homes of the city’s wealthy elite.

The building remained the home for the city’s leading opera company until its last performance in April 1966. That September, the Met Opera reopened in Lincoln Center. The building was demolished in 1967 and replaced with the 1.1 million-square-foot office tower 1411 Broadway, completed in 1970.

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