Norman Wolgin, the Philadelphia-based real estate developer who restored and reimagined Bolton Landing’s historic Sagamore hotel, died at the age of 95 on February 12.
Wolgin was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1927 to Israel and Rose Basin Wolgin.
He served in the US Army during World War II. Returning home in 1946, Wolgin went to work in the family business, the Atlas Credit Corporation, which his father had started in the 1930s to finance automobiles.
Three of Israel Wolgin’s sons – Norman, Jack and Sidney – expanded the business after World War II.
He entered the car business in 1949, selling used cars as well as small European imports.
With the purchase of two cars and $200 in parts and metric tools, Wolgin became the first Volkswagen dealer in the state of Pennsylvania.
Sales did not go well, however, after people looked under the hood and found no engine.
Once Americans became accustomed to rear engine cars, Wolgin had greater success with a new VW dealership he opened in 1962. He also owned Jenkintown Ford from 1960 to 1962.
In 1958, Norman married Marian Jane Lebovitz, who became his partner in all things: life, family, business, and philanthropy. In 1981 Norman and Marian embarked on the four-year redevelopment and restoration of the 100-year-old historic Sagamore. The economic engine that is The Sagamore Hotel is now a 350-room resort and conference center.
By 1962, Atlas Credit had evolved into a real estate-oriented finance business and mortgage company and Wolgin became its Executive Vice President, where his responsibilities included serving on the Executive Committee for all of the Atlas subsidiaries, among them: the Colonial Mortgage Service Company, now GMAC Mortgage Company, one of the largest mortgage service companies in the country at the time. Wolgin’s activities on behalf of Colonial included responsibility for Joint Venture projects with builders.
In 1969, Wolgin formed Waverly Management, which built and managed more than 1,100 units of multifamily housing apartments in the Philadelphia area. In 1974, he developed one of the first condominium projects in downtown Philadelphia -Tower East (Center City One) at Broad and Spruce Streets. 1979 saw the development of a 400,000 sq ft office tower at 7th and Chestnut and two years later, The Double Tree Hotel, Garage and Wilma Theater at Broad and Locust Streets.
Throughout his career, Norman used his development and construction skills to support philanthropic projects- most notably, the expansion of the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House and the Annenberg Research Institute. The partnership of Norman and Marian was a very effective fund raiser for causes in the Philadelphia area, as well as the Adirondacks.
Norman loved to fox hunt with the Huntington Valley Hunt while in Philadelphia and sailing on Lake George with family and friends.
According to Norman Wolgin’s family, “he was a car guy.”
Starting as a young boy, Noman loved all things cars – the through-line of his life. He was a passionate collector and restorer of antique automobiles. His first restoration was of a 1936 Ford that he brought home in bushel baskets. Marian did all the upholstery and the convertible top. He built a collection of 1930s Classic Era cars and sports cars from the 1950s. In later years he took to designing custom cars, some influenced by the 1930s Classic Era and some wholly of his imagination. His creative designs fashioned from an eclectic blend of parts caused one friend to refer to them as “Frankinwolgins”-a misnomer for Norman’s “Rolling Sculptures.”
Beyond his career and hobbies, Norman Wolgin was, at his core, a man dedicated to family; he was always at home for dinner, at family vacations and supportive of his children’s endeavors. He gave his daughter Amy and his son Ike the gift of the best high school, college, and graduate educations. Beyond schooling he gifted his children a strong work ethic, the importance of follow-through, and hopefully some of his intuitive business skills. Most importantly, he was a role model for ethical conduct. Norman built a business career based on relationships over the bottom line. His conduct over 50 years earned him a devoted following of partners, associates, and employees. Norman lived a life that was always full and balanced-family, work and service.
Norman was predeceased by his daughter Amy Wolgin Wiener and his brothers Jack and Sidney Wolgin.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Marian Wolgin,
son I. Robert Wolgin (Ike) of Bolton Landing, grandson Michael Weiner and his wife Alli Wiener of Seattle, WA and his brother, Dr. William Wolgin of Philadelphia, PA
Funeral services will be private and at the convenience of the family
Contributions in Norman Wolgin’s honor can be made to:
The Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House
3925 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
The Double H Ranch
97 Hidden Valley Road
Lake Luzerne, NY 12846