Gransback, Sam

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NAME: Sam Gransback


Sam Gransback, born 1939 died 1989 in his home in the Spring Garden section of Philadelphia.

Born Samuel Gladding Gransbach, he was said to descend from one of the Hessian soldiers hired by the British in the American Revolution. He attended Girard College and took his master’s degree in urban economics from Drexel University. At the age of 25, Sam bought a house on Mount Vernon Street in Spring Garden, then a very marginal neighborhood – he was one of the first to “pioneer” in what, in no small part due to his efforts became a gentrified area.

From 1969 – 1974 he was a project manager for the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority. Then he took his real estate broker’s license and spent the last 14 years of his life selling real estate largely in the Fairmount and Spring Garden neighborhoods where he was the unofficial “mayor” and served a term as president of the neighborhood civic association.

Sam was socially well connected but with a remarkably diverse social set. He was a great host and raconteur and invitations to his dinner parties were highly prized. As his health declined he took his own life at the age of 50.

Sam Gransback, 50; Championed Spring Garden

December 26, 1989|By Michael L. Rozansky, Inquirer Staff Writer Inquirer staff writer Alan Sipress contributed to this article.

Sam Gransback, 50, a real estate broker who led the revitalization of the city's Spring Garden neighborhood, died at his home Friday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to an official in the Medical Examiner's Office.

Mr. Gransback was found shortly before 5 p.m. in the ground-floor apartment of his three-story renovated rowhouse on Mount Vernon Street, friends and the Medical Examiner's Office said. A gun was found nearby.

Born Samuel Gladding Gransback 3d to a family with a long, proud Philadelphia history - a city street is named after his great-grandfather, former state Sen. Henry Gransback - he graduated from Girard College and earned a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in urban economics from Drexel University.

In the early '60s, friends said, he bought a rowhouse for $7,000 in Spring Garden, a rundown area whose Victorian and Federal architecture appealed to him, and renovated it floor by floor from the top down, converting the top floors into apartments that he rented out.

For 25 years, Mr. Gransback was active in the Spring Garden Civic Association. He organized an annual trash cleanup, worked as block captain and, in 1975, created the Spring Garden House tour of 10 homes, including his own. The tours raised enough money over the years to buy and plant more than 500 trees in the area, friends said.

"He was just the prime moving force in Spring Garden's development," said Allen Rubin, a friend. "He just had vision and worked toward it."

In a story told by one of his friends, somone once credited Mr. Gransback with being the pioneer for the area's gentrification. "Damn, I'm not the pioneer," he is said to have replied. "I was the scout."

From 1969 to 1974, Mr. Gransback worked for the city's Redevelopment Authority as a project manager in the Pennsport and Washington Square West areas. Since then, he had sold real estate for Hibberd B. Worrell Inc. in Philadelphia.

Described by his friends as meticulous, mercurial, outspoken and generous, Mr. Gransback knitted together people from the worlds of Main Line society, the arts and business - along with newspaper columnists and neighborhood friends - at weekly Friday night dinners in what was a sort of modern-day European salon.

In a galley-size kitchen, he cooked gourmet meals for eight to 10 people. It was a great coup to be invited to Sam's dinner parties," said Julie Jensen, a friend.

"What he was interested in was interesting people. He cared less about their social status than their ability to make conversation," said friend Benjamin Hammond.

Mr. Gransback is survived by his mother, Anna Gransback, and sister, Carolyn Vogt.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 14 at the Academy of Music ballroom, Broad and Locust Streets.

Memorial contributions may be sent to the Spring Garden Civic Association Tree Fund, 1937 Brandywine St., Philadelphia 19130.

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Date of Birth: 1939

Date of Death (delete if non-applicable): 12/22/1989

Age at Death (delete if non-applicable): 50


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