Philip M. Klutznick was born in July 1907, in Kansas City, Missouri to Morris and Minnie Klutznick. His parents and older sister immigrated to the United States from Poland soon after the Kishinoff pogrom of 1905. With help from the Industrial Removal Society, whose goal was to help immigrant Jews move to the interior of the United States, they were relocated to Kansas City by way of Galveston, Texas. Morris Klutznick had established himself in Kansas City as a shoe store owner by the time Philip was born. The senior Klutznick’s entrepreneurial spirit was passed on to his oldest son and that talent was to serve Philip all his life.13
Klutznick began to practice law in Omaha, Nebraska in 1929 after finishing his studies at Creighton University. There he set up his practice with his brother-in-law, Sam Beber. At that time the City of Omaha was bankrupt, and Klutznick saw the newly created National Industrial Recovery Act as a means of pulling Omaha up and out of a painful financial situation. On June 16, 1933, Congress approved the National Industrial Recovery Act that authorized the use of federal funds for slum clearance and to finance low-rent housing. With subsequent appropriations under this legislation, 50 low-rent housing developments with more than 21,000 units were built nationally by the Public Works Administration. Klutznick served as assistant corporation counsel to the city of Omaha in 1933 and 1934 and was instrumental in writing significant legislation that became the Nebraska Housing Authorities Act. Through the use of this recovery act, funding flowed to the city and helped to ease its financial situation. He would later be called the “founding father” of public housing in Omaha and Nebraska, and to a large extent in the nation. He was recruited, in 1933, as special assistant to the US Attorney General for Public Lands. His reputation quickly built as a housing expert, and in 1941 he was noticed by Ferd Kramer, a dynamic official in the federal Office of Defense Housing. Kramer decided to hire Klutznick and offered him a position that brought him to Chicago as regional coordinator in charge of building temporary housing for defense workers and their families. His friendship and professional relationship with Ferd Kramer would continue for over fifty years.
Klutznick’s various federal positions required extensive contact with homebuilders and their associations across America. Those responsibilities, all in support of the war effort, had placed him in a position of putting people and resources together to build temporary and permanent housing for war industry demands. However his primary concern, after assessing the existing housing supply, was the lack of good rental housing. He pushed for more rental units, through his contacts in the home building industry, to meet the expanding need.
Small building firms expanded during the war, especially those that could obtain priority financing through the government as well as government contracts. Local builders, especially those who were willing to provide the needed war industry housing, found in the government a partner that supported not only their financial needs but filled their material demands as well. Klutznick met with these homebuilders and began to educate them on the short and long-term advantages that could be gained through proper planning and marketing. Most builders knew how to build and sell a house but few knew how to build and then rent hundreds of that same house.
Klutznick was a close friend of the new President and his twenty year relationship with Truman would redefine his opportunities. Klutznick could see, after three heady Washington years, that his position as commissioner of the Federal Public Housing Authority (FPHA) was going to change. Peace would create unlimited opportunities and if there was one element of Klutznick’s personality that would never alter was his instinctive ability to see an opportunity and seize it.
Carroll Fuller Sweet, Sr., in the spring of 1945, was living in Chicago and like all who were born in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, had seen the world irrevocably change. He was born in June 1877, one year after the Battle for the Little Big Horn. Now, sixty-seven years later, a war of hideous proportions was about to end and with it the birth of a bold and different world.
The road traveled to Chicago by Sweet had been a long and, at times, a difficult one. Born in Grand Rapids, Sweet was the eldest of five children and graduated from Yale University in 1899. He had been a vice-president of Old National Bank, western Michigan’s oldest and most prestigious financial institution. He had been founder and president of Western Michigan Tourist and Resort Association and, like many others, had been out of work during the “Great Depression.” As Sweet’s life moved into the difficult times of the thirties he became deeply involved in the “New Deal” politics of the Roosevelt administration.
The Depression forced many from their homes. One of the first programs created by the Roosevelt administration to successfully protect homeowners was the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC). This government corporation refinanced homeowner mortgages, enabling owners to keep their homes. According to John P. Dean in his 1945 article for Harper’s Magazine, the “HOLC acquired over a million mortgages, representing about 18% of the total mortgaged home owners in the United States, but even so, the mortgages accepted for refinancing amounted to only 34% of those who applied. Furthermore, by the end of the decade, the HOLC was forced to foreclose on about one-sixth of the mortgages accepted.”14
Sweet, a Democrat for over thirty years, was offered and accepted the position of director of the HOLC office for western Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. During the days when loans were being made, his district led the nation; during the time when the program was in a receiving mode, his foreclosures were the lowest. He knew how to cut “red tape” and was a man who did not believe in “useless bureaucratic interference.” Federal officials, on several occasions, came from the state headquarters office in Detroit prepared to fire him and each time, after examining the facts and hearing from his outstanding staff, they left him alone.
The “challenge days” of the HOLC were over by the end of the thirties and with them the demands of an administrator with Sweet’s abilities. He was offered and accepted the job of Executive Director of the Michigan Real Estate Association, located in Lansing, Michigan. These were troubled times for Sweet personally and after he and his wife separated he quit his directorship and headed to Chicago to look for a job that would appeal to his own personal desires. He soon found a job with the regional office of the National Housing Administration (NHA). At the start of the Second World War, he was the temporary regional allocator of critical materials, especially those materials needed by the home building industry.
Carroll Sweet had often been asked by Chicago developer and builder Nathan Manilow to join his home-building firm. In 1944 after the strains of his NHA job proved too much for the elderly Sweet, he was ready to accept Manilow’s offer. Manilow needed Sweet in another position though, to help manage and nurture the National Convention of Homebuilders that was relocating to Chicago from Cleveland. It was Sweet’s responsibility, as Executive Director of the Chicago Metropolitan Home Builders Association, to see that the money losing convention would not be a liability to the Chicago association. Through his efforts and his idea to add suppliers of building materials to the convention, the convention would grow to become the largest of its kind in the United States. Carroll Sweet, after these responsibilities were completed, then formally joined the Manilow office.
Nathan Manilow was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1898. He quit school to sell shoes when he was 15 and earned his first big money at 20 by buying 6,000 World-War I surplus shoes at $2.85 a pair and selling them for $4.00. He was pragmatic and had a knack for spotting what people needed. He was a risk taker, a promoter, and a maker of real estate deals during a time when few opportunities were open to Jews. His innate and almost instinctive ability to focus on “the deal” greatly compensated for the lack of a “formal” education. Manilow’s capacity to learn and face challenges was almost boundless. He turned up in Chicago in 1920 as a builder. He built 100 three-flat apartment houses and a $1.5 million commercial structure. Manilow realized, after this building venture, that he was on the wrong side of the borrowing business. Shifting to the lender side he made a profit of 69% on his first year’s invested capital that he had lent to other builders.
The building and growth boom of the twenties carried many up with the tide. Manilow’s ability to loan money to other builders with short-term needs supported their building activities as well as his. A millionaire by 1929, the crash only changed his venue — not his viewpoint. After building 300 apartment and commercial buildings in Detroit, Manilow moved back to Chicago in 1939. He intuitively and soundly believed that people wanted homes, not apartments. Acting on his belief, he assembled the largest parcel of land inside Chicago’s city limits, a square mile of land on the south side near 95th Street, and began the $25 million Jeffrey Manor, a community of 3,100 homes. The Second World War and a lack of building materials unfortunately slowed down most construction projects, including Jeffrey Manor.15
Manilow could see that with the end of the war this situation would change. He knew Chicago’s housing problems and how difficult and expensive solving those problems might be. He began to systematically explore the areas immediately surrounding the city for opportunities. He was sure that it would be here that growth, unencumbered growth, would happen.
Philip M. Klutznick met Carroll Sweet while working with the National Housing Association in Chicago. A mutual friendship and respect developed between them, and when Klutznick went to Washington as Assistant Administrator of the National Housing Agency in February of 1942, he asked Sweet to become a “trouble shooter” for the NHA Washington office. Unfortunately, the amount of travel and time required of Sweet proved to be too much for him. He needed a less strenuous job and he found it with Nathan Manilow. Klutznick also met Manilow during his stay in Chicago. Their casual and professional relationship during this time hardly foretold the future when the three of them would join to form the trinity that would build Park Forest.