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Stephen E. Solms, Builder, Sixers Supporter, Dies at 71

August 19, 2010 By:
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When he died on Aug. 8 at age 71, Stephen E. Solms left behind a legacy of landmark living -- and not just because he was the guiding force behind Historic Landmarks for Living, a real estate venture and adventure that helped re-shape the city's skyline beginning in 1978.

Solms took the gusto and guts that propelled him to form that company -- whose theme best could be described: "If he builds it, they will come -- and buy a piece of history" -- and applied it to a lifelong interest in the Philadelphia 76ers and a sense of charity that turned his pockets inside out when he came across a person or cause in need.

What Solms did for a business, however, attracted attention nationwide, as he turned turn-of-the-century rundown Philly factories, wireworks and even a onetime luxury auto showcase, into apartments and buildings that fueled a renaissance of retro architecture and keen interest in the importance of historical sites for modern-day accommodations.

The spunk and spirit he brought to that business also drove him elsewhere, whether it be a Sixers game or the boardwalk of Atlantic City. Indeed, his philanthropic and fun philosophies fed each other, whether his activity was private or public.

Solms translated his love of the Philadelphia basketball's Sixers into his everyday career, perhaps inadvertently adapting their slogan of offering fans seats that they'll never get a chance to sit in (because they'll be on their feet cheering) to a business credo of creating exciting apartments/condos customers would never think they'd have an opportunity to live in.

Solms, scion of a prominent and active Philadelphia Jewish family -- his late father, David, a banking executive, was, among a legion of leading positions, at one time president of the Jewish Exponent --created hoopla with every shot he took at life.

'Passion Unmatched'
Ed Snider, chairman of Comcast-Spectacor, noted that Solms, sitting in a center court seat within a layup of his favorite team, "epitomized the heart and soul of the Philadelphia sports fan. His passion was unmatched anywhere in sports," he said of the man who was not only "such a great fan, he was also my friend."

Of those there were many -- prominent and pedestrian. The beauty of Solms' mix of business success and innate sensitivity found expression sometimes in the most unusual of offers.

His brother Kenny, a prominent TV producer and writer as well as playwright represented now off-Broadway, recalled a beneficent sibling who liked to shower unsuspecting acquaintances with largess reflective of his larger-than-life outlook.

Kiddingly comparing him to Johnson Beresford Tipton, the mythical hero of "The Millionaire," TV's charismatic fictional character from the '50s who doled out millions -- tax free -- to those with heart-rending needs, Kenny recalled the time Steve approached a rolling-chair operator on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City and inquired how much it would cost for a "ride" to Ventnor.

When the obviously pleased roller-chair worker -- counting his good fortune -- came up with a fare of $100, Solms pushed back with a surprise.

"OK," Kenny recalled, "he would pay it but only if he could push" the worker.

Taken for a ride? The stunned shore employee said no. "I would lose my license if I let you do that," he replied.

"How much is your license?" asked Solms. With a gulp, the response came back, "It's $250."

Tell ya what, Solms continued, "I'll give you $500 if you let me do it."

"And he did," said Kenny with a chuckle of his brother, a bear of a man with a honey of a heart.

In addition to his brother, Stephen E. Solms is survived by his wife, the former Ellen Beck; a daughter, Elizabeth; and a son, Moses, not-so-coincidentally named in honor of the Sixer former great Moses Malone. 

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