Celebrating Black Entrepreneurs in the Real Estate Industry


February 2023

As our contribution to elevating and celebrating Black History Month, Rittenhouse Appraisals is highlighting the talents and impact of four Black entrepreneurs in the real estate industry.

Our first is Anderson Hunt (A.H.) Brown. Born in 1880 Brown developed high-quality residential housing for Black individuals in Charlestown, West Virginia, as well as building and leasing commercial real estate. This was a tremendous challenge due to the racist policies and practices in the real estate sector for most of Brown’s lifetime. However before his death at age 94, he had owned and managed up to 100 properties. He additionally worked to strike down segregation laws and accelerate advancements in civil rights. Learn more about Brown here.

Second is Philip A. Payton, Jr. As one of the first Black real estate moguls in the US, Payton is credited with changing Upper Manhattan – Harlem – at the beginning of the 20th century, through his management and eventual ownership of residential buildings. Learn more about him here.

Bridget Biddy Mason is our third profile. Born in 1818 in Georgia and after decades of enslavement in various parts of the country, Mason became a free woman and would go on to own multiple properties in the heart of Los Angeles before her passing in 1891. Long before the term “real estate mogul” was coined she one of the first well known Black citizens to become a landowner in the 1850s and 1860s, working and saving to purchase land parcels, upon which she built and rented residential units. She was also the founder of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles in 1872. Read Biddy’s story here.

The fourth feature is Reverend Dr. Leon Howard Sullivan, a West Virginia native who was committed to equality, and providing training and support toward racial economic emancipation once coming to Philadelphia in 1950. His creation of Opportunities Industrialization Centers (OIC), and founding of Progress Investment Associates (PIA) were key in ensuring job opportunities, but beyond that Sullivan’s goal was to provide an ability to for African Americans to have control in business and access to capital.

With that intention in 1965 PIA broke ground for Zion Gardens, a garden apartment complex that at the time was the first of its kind and size in Philadelphia history to be developed and owned by African Americans. Two years later the entity broke ground on a shopping center with a 20-year, million-dollar lease with A&P. Sullivan Progress Plaza is still operational and is the first shopping center in the United States developed, built, owned and managed by African Americans. Learn more about Sullivan here.

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