My son Daniel Tishman, as he took over the leadership of Tishman Construction. our company that I deeply appreciated. Also, during that relatively brief period, Dan had started to take the company up into the stratosphere, leading it to become the number one Construction Manager, as measured by the dollar volume of projects under contract.
I took satisfaction from the fact that Tishman Construction was still a private, family-owned company. Over the years, I had watched with some misgivings as our major competitors became mostly owned by foreign entities and went through many changes in leadership. We were more fortunate: Dan, a fourth-generation Tishman, was the heir to a tradition that started with my grandfather’s founding of Julius Tishman Real Estate company in 1898, but that had had a rebirth when I took the company private as Tishman Construction in 1980. Our construction history included building the skylines of many cities throughout the United States of America. in trade was to acquire land, erect a structure on that property, and after the building was completed to continue to own and manage it and make income from it. This was an era in which private family businesses were the norm in American industry—well before the era of multiple large corporations and public companies.
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In 1917, when the Great War began for the U.S., my father entered the military service and was sent to Europe, where he was gassed on the battlefield. Mustard gas killed about 100,000 combatants and left millions more, including my father, with lungs seriously impaired for the rest of their lives.
After the war, Louis rejoined the firm, and his two youngest brothers, Paul and Norman, also came on board when they finished their years at M.I.T. and Harvard. Paul and my father were best friends among the brothers, sharing liberal humanist interests and temperament. My father and Paul’s social and political impulses, however, were 180 degrees opposite to those of David and Norman, who were politically conservative. The arrival of the younger brothers changed the alignment of the company. My father had been in charge of building management and leasing for the company until Paul arrived and took over that aspect of the business, which permitted my father to move up to directing the entire enterprise with David.
In the early 1920s, my father married Rose Foreman, who was from Chicago, and they had three children. I am the middle child and second son, born in 1926. My earliest memories are of our summer place on Lake Placid, where other Tishman uncles, aunts, and cousins often visited us.
The company’s business boomed throughout the 1920s. Julius Tishman & Sons would identify potential sites for residential buildings, determine the mix and layout of apartment types that would attract tenants, and then, serving as their own contractors, would mostly erect apartment buildings on the sites. They did this successfully all over Manhattan, notably along Park Avenue. They also put up lofts and a few office buildings, often “pioneering” into territories previously thought unsuitable for the kinds of projects they imagined—for instance, they constructed the first luxury apartment buildings north of 86th Street on Park Avenue. Frequently they erected buildings before a district became fashionable, and when the area caught on they reaped the benefits.