Stan­ley E. Su­gar­man

Real es­tate firm owner who dealt with a seg­re­gated Bal­ti­more in the 1950s be­came re­source for ur­ban schol­ars

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Jac­ques Kelly

Stan­ley E. Su­gar­man, a land­lord and real es­tate busi­ness owner who helped African Amer­i­cans buy their first homes, died of cancer May 7 at his Steven­son home. He was 94.

Born in Malden, Mas­sachusetts, he was the son of Mor­ris Su­gar­man, a kosher butcher and Lithua­nian im­mi­grant, and his wife, Sadie Springer. He at­tended Mas­sachusetts State Univer­sity and en­tered the world of busi­ness while a teenager. He ran his own pa­per route and hired oth­ers to work for him.

He served in the Navy as an en­sign aboard the USS Wis­con­sin at the end of World War II.

He earned a de­gree at Brown Univer­sity af­ter his mil­i­tary ser­vice.

Mr. Su­gar­man moved to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and taught sci­ence at John Philip Sousa Ju­nior High School. At a so­cial mixer, he met his fu­ture wife, Ethyl Binder, a Bal­ti­morean.

Af­ter their mar­riage they set­tled in Bal­ti­more.

“My fa­ther, who at­tended a racially mixed high school in Mas­sachusetts, was ap­palled by Bal­ti­more’s seg­re­ga­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion,” said his daugh­ter, Dr. Kate Su­gar­man, a Po­tomac res­i­dent. “He was for­ever moved and dis­turbed by his ob­ser­va­tions that the African Amer­i­cans on his ship in the war were never al­lowed ca­reer ad­vance­ment,” his daugh­ter said.

He was also a keen ob­server of con­di­tions in Bal­ti­more in the 1950s.

“As he en­tered the world of real es­tate in Bal­ti­more, he was fur­ther dis­turbed by the fact that African Amer­i­can sol­diers who had re­turned from fight­ing in the Korean War were be­ing de­nied hous­ing,” his daugh­ter said.

He and his part­ner, Ger­ald Cornes, ran and op­er­ated Home­wood Realty for many decades.

“They pro­vided high-qual­ity and af­ford­able hous­ing to count­less low-in­come peo­ple in Bal­ti­more,” his daugh­ter said.

Mr. Su­gar­man was twice pres­i­dent of the Prop­erty Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion and taught land­lords about the prin­ci­ples of pro­vid­ing qual­ity prop­erty man­age­ment, his daugh­ter said. He also ad­vised ur­ban stud­ies stu­dents and pro­fes­sors, Bal­ti­more City Coun­cil mem­bers and Bal­ti­more City hous­ing of­fi­cials.

“He had pro­found in­sight and ex­pe­ri­ence in pro­vid­ing af­ford­able and well­main­tained prop­er­ties,” she said.

Mr. Su­gar­man later be­friended An­tero Pi­etila, a for­mer Bal­ti­more Sun re­porter who wrote the 2010 book “Not in My Neigh­bor­hood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great Amer­i­can City.”

“Stan­ley joined a corps of real es­tate op­er­a­tors col­lec­tively nick­named block­busters who bought from flee­ing whites and resold or rented to blacks,” said Mr. Pi­etila. “He ini­tially worked for Mil­ton Kir­sh­ner, a real es­tate bro­ker who or­dered him to find list­ings out­side the cen­ter city, de­fined by Fulton Av­enue and Broad­way.

“A long tra­di­tion of le­gal or cus­tom­ary dis­crim­i­na­tion went back to the city’s pi­o­neer­ing 1910 res­i­den­tial seg­re­ga­tion or­di­nance and sub­se­quent redlin­ing. Ma­jor Howard Street depart­ment stores catered to whites only; so did restau­rants, ho­tels and the­aters. When Bal­ti­more or­dered its pub­lic schools de­seg­re­gated in the au­tumn of 1954, racial fears swept through many neigh­bor­hoods,” said Mr. Pi­etila.

He also said that Mr. Su­gar­man found a niche among African Amer­i­can home hunters, of­ten mil­i­tary vet­er­ans, who had steady jobs at Beth­le­hem Steel and other in­dus­tries.

“The av­er­age in­come was $7,500 a year. If I could de­liver a house for them for about $125 a month, I would have a huge mar­ket that was un­der­served,” Mr. Su­gar­man said in a mem­oir.

He had two real es­tate firms, Home­wood Realty and Su­gar­corn Realty and man­aged a port­fo­lio of some 500 rental units. His of­fice was at 2025 Maryland Ave. in the Old Goucher neigh­bor­hood.

“With an in­ven­tory that big, he be­came a sought-af­ter re­source for ur­ban schol­ars try­ing to un­der­stand the com­plex­i­ties of the hous­ing mar­ket,” said Mr. Pi­etila.

“He opened his books; he was ex­cep­tional,” said Wil­liam Grigsby, a Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor, who used the in­for­ma­tion for his book “Ur­ban Hous­ing Pol­icy.” They be­came life­long friends in the 1960s.

Mr. Su­gar­man was men­tioned in a 1972 book about Bal­ti­more, “Hous­ing In­vest­ment in the In­ner City: The Dy­nam­ics of De­cline,” by Michael A. Stegman.

“He shared doc­u­ments and took me on tours around the city, in­clud­ing the Po­plar Grove area of West Bal­ti­more, of­fer­ing play-by-play commentary on how the var­i­ous blocks changed racially,” Mr. Pi­etila said, adding that Mr. Su­gar­man also dis­cussed the dif­fi­cul­ties black home buy­ers faced in ob­tain­ing fi­nanc­ing.

“You have to re­mem­ber that the typ­i­cal black ap­pli­cant was de­nied ac­cess to credit at Hut­zler’s and Hochschild’s and ma­jor depart­ment stores,” Mr. Pi­etila said, adding that if Mr. Su­gar­man wanted a credit ref­er­ence, he sought it from jewelry and fur­ni­ture stores spe­cial­iz­ing in in­stall­ment sales.

Mr. Su­gar­man, in his role as a Prop­erty Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of­fi­cial, spoke at the group’s work­shops for own­ers and man­agers of rental units.

M. Jay Brodie, the for­mer city hous­ing com­mis­sioner who was also a Wash­ing­ton, D.C., rede­vel­op­ment of­fi­cial, said, “He was a good per­son, some­one who rep­re­sented the Prop­erty Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion very well, with­out be­ing de­fen­sive.”

Mr. Pi­etila said that Mr. Su­gar­man faced chal­lenges dur­ing his fi­nal years in the busi­ness. He had ag­ing row­houses with lead paint con­tam­i­na­tion.

“He dreaded go­ing to his of­fice know­ing an­other suit claim­ing dam­ages would likely ar­rive,” Mr. Pi­etila said.

“Stan­ley’s per­son­al­ity was some­what re­served, but he was a jolly man. He had his own sense of hu­mor and was able to deal with all sorts of peo­ple,” Mr. Pi­etila said.

Mr. Su­gar­man was an avid cy­clist and a mem­ber of the Bal­ti­more Cy­cle Club. He liked phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and learn­ing.

In ad­di­tion to his daugh­ter, sur­vivors in­clude his part­ner, Phyl­lis Pos­ner of Pikesville, and five grand­chil­dren. His wife of 56 years died in 2007. A daugh­ter, Fran Su­gar­man, died in 2011.

Funeral ser­vices were pri­vate.

Stan­ley E. Su­gar­man was pres­i­dent of the Prop­erty Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion.

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