Titan of real estate Boston for six decades
The venerable Harold Brown, who built one of Boston’s most successful real estate empires over a span of 65 years, died at his home Sunday, Feb. 24. He was 94.
Mr. Brown, who purchased his first property at 1292 Commonwealth Ave. for $20,000 in 1954, had amassed more than $2.3 billion in residential and commercial real estate, primarily geared to working class families, students and medical professionals. Mr. Brown’s Hamilton Company now provides a full-range of development, acquisition and construction services, property and asset management, and financial and investment management.
Known for his quick wit, no-nonsense approach and generosity, Mr. Brown had stepped down last September as Chairman of The Hamilton Company and turned the reins over to his son, Chief Executive Officer Jameson Brown, his longtime Chief Financial Officer Andy Bloch, and his longtime business associate and trusted advisor Guilliaem “Rusty” Aertsen.
At that time, Mr. Brown, who retained the title of Chairman Emeritus, said: “It’s time. Our company is in great shape. We have great people in place. And I’m always around to help out.”
Brian Golden, Director of the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), called Mr. Brown “a real gentleman, active philanthropist and a pleasure to work with.” Golden went on to praise him for “the important role he played in the life of this City.”
Said Golden: “Harold Brown provided housing for thousands of Bostonians at a wide range of incomes for decades, and he continued to address the needs of our diverse population during our recent period of tremendous growth. As development regulator for the City of Boston, I had been involved in tough negotiations with Harold, but I was always grateful for his constructive, respectful focus on getting results that benefit the greater good.”
Bill McCall, President of McCall & Almy, a leading real estate brokerage firm in Boston, said:
“Harold Brown had an amazing career as the founder and key principal of one of Boston’s largest and oldest real estate companies. He will probably best be credited for successfully delivering thousands of units of workforce housing. Untold families have benefitted from his foresight in creating this much-needed product. We in the Greater Boston area owe Harold a debt of gratitude as we all have benefitted tremendously from his efforts over the years.”
Rusty Aertsen, Mr. Brown’s successor as Chairman, said, “Harold was unswerving in his advocacy for moderate income housing, in his loyalty to all those associated with The Hamilton Company, and his enormous pride in providing generous support through his Foundation to many non-profit organizations serving communities in and around Boston.Harold’s love for, and commitment to, real estate and to his hometown was lifelong and infectious to all lucky enough to know him.He will be greatly missed.”
In all, The Hamilton company owns 5,600 units of multi-family housing and 1.3 million square feet of commercial space, one-third of which is held in the publicly-traded New England Realty Associated Limited Partnership and two thirds in privately-held limited liability companies. Mr. Brown had 100 percent voting control of The Hamilton Company, majority voting control of New England Real Estate Associates and was Co-Managing Partner with Aertsen of the private limited liability companies.
While Mr. Brown is best known for acquiring and developing residential and commercial rental properties in Greater Boston, his real estate holdings extend to the such outlying suburbs as Taunton, Framingham and Worcester, Scituate, Lowell and North Andover, and as far away as New Hampshire and Providence, R.I.
Over the years, Mr. Brown became a master at acquiring and developing what is now referred to as “rent by necessity” (RBN) or moderate-income housing, catering to working families, students and neighborhood businesses. His properties benefit from the region’s vast number of colleges and universities, teaching hospitals, start-ups and global companies.
Brown’s rental units and commercial space are priced for value; most rents fall somewhere in between the subsidized and luxury markets. Mr. Brown could offer these moderate rates because his initial investment was far lower that what it would cost to buy these properties today.
Mr. Brown also founded The Hamilton Company Charitable Foundation, for which he has won many community service awards. The Foundation, chaired by Harold’s brother Ronald Brown, provides millions of dollars annually to Boston charities and non-profit neighborhood groups in the communities that The Hamilton Company serves.
One of seven children of Morris and Dora (Greenberg) Brown, Mr. Brown grew up in Brookline, attended Devotion School and then graduated from Brookline High School where he played baseball and performed in dramatic plays, earning a scholarship for drama to MIT where he graduated with a degree in metallurgical engineering.
Mr. Brown is a U.S. Navy veteran of both World War II and the Korean Conflict, where he was in charge of public relations for the Far Eastern Forces from 1951-1952.
Mr. Brown was the beloved husband of Maura(Nolan)Brown; devoted father of Lisa Brown Piper, Harley Oliver Brown and Jameson Pruitt Brown and his wife Kira Lee Brown; loving brother of Ronald Brown and his wife Ellen; dear brother-in-law of Jacqueline Nolan Haley, Janice Henry, Leonard Nolan, Barbara Nolan, Martina Alibrandi, Joseph Nolan.Harold is predeceased by siblings Sylvia Lebow, George, Doris, Charles, and Ralph Brown.
Funeral Services took place at Congregation Kehillath in Brookline on Wednesday, Feb. 27. Burial was be private.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to West End House, www.westendhouse.orgor the Franciscan Children’s, www.franciscanchildrens.org.