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The Failed Bloom of the Astors

Flowers only last for a season.  Such was the case of the Astor family.

John Jacob Astor was born in 1763 in Germany.  He emigrated to New York at the end of the Revolutionary War.  A chance conversation led him into fur trading and the establishment of a fur goods shop in New York.

That little shop was the beginning of his empire, which eventually included massive real estate holdings in Manhattan.  They owned so many parcels the Astor family was known as “the landlords of New York.”

The next two generations continued the growth of the empire.  John’s son, William, owned more than 700 houses south of Central Park.  A centerpiece of the empire was the family home known as the Rokeby Mansion.

But the next two generations—benefactors of family trusts—lacked the same work ethic of the prior generations and became attracted to their celebrity status.  As a symbol of their failed wealth, Rokeby Mansion fell into disrepair.  While still occupied by descendants of the Astors, they were impoverished and lived hand to mouth.

We will all leave a legacy.  But if we are not careful to maintain it, and preserve it generation after generation, it dies and becomes only a memory.

About Bill High

Bill is CEO of the Signatry: A Global Christian Foundation. He works with families, individual givers, and financial advisers to share the foundation’s message regarding biblical generosity and charitable giving. » Learn More. He is the co-author with David Green of Giving It All Away and Getting It All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously.

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