Joseph Meyerhoff, 85, who made a fortune in construction and real estate and who became a noted supporter of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and of Israel, died Feb. 2 at Johns Hopkins Hospital after a heart attack.
Mr. Meyerhoff was born in Russia and came to the United States with his family in 1906. His father was a local grocer. The boy graduated from Baltimore City College and went into the construction business.
In 1982, he estimated he had built more than 15,000 individual and group homes in the Baltimore area and another 17,000 apartments in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Florida. He also built 19 shopping centers.
The 1979 liquidation of his firm, Monumental Properties, reportedly realized $600 million for shareholders. The Meyerhoff family, which held about 30 percent of the stock, received an estimated $180 million. Mr. Meyerhoff's personal fortune has been estimated at $100 million.
He may have been Baltimore's best known philanthropist and the Baltimore Symphony was one of his favorite institutions. He became board chairman and president in 1965 and remained as chairman until his death.
The Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, a $23 million expressionistic auditorium designed by nationally renowned architect Pietro Belluschi, was dedicated two years ago. Both city and state funds went into the building, but Mr. Meyerhoff contributed $10 million to the effort.
Another of Mr. Meyerhoff's interests was Israel. Two years ago, he estimated he had donated $5 million to the country for construction of "various capital projects," including six libraries, several pavilions and a technical college.
He was a member of the executive committee of the United Jewish Appeal of the United States and the organization's general chairman from 1961 to 1964. He also was a member of the boards of the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Baltimore Opera, Baltimore Hebrew College, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv Museum and Sinai Hospital.
Survivors include his wife, Rebecca Witten Meyerhoff; two children, Harvey M., of Baltimore, and Eleanor M. Katz of Hollywood, Fla.; a sister, Lena Pushkin of Miami Beach, Fla.; 11 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.