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Historical Background of Four Plus Corporation

John S. Appleby C.E. Appleby

FOUR PLUS CORPORATION was incorporated in New York in 1935 by John S. Appleby.  Named “Four Plus” because its original shareholders were John S. Appleby’s four children, the true beginnings of Four Plus Corporation occurred in the 19th century when John S. Appleby’s father, Charles Edgar Appleby, acquired the real estate that would become the principle assets of the corporation. 

Charles Edgar Appleby (1824-1913) was born in Middletown, New Jersey, the second son of James Appleby III and Anne Lufburrow.  We know very little of C. E. Appleby’s early life, except that his father was a merchant of some sort, and according to one of the few interviews C. E. Appleby did in his life, he grew up a poor boy and inherited nothing.  As a young man, C. E. Appleby became a lawyer, although he practiced law only until he was thirty saying “The science of the law I loved; its practice I hated.  So I quit practicing.”  Thus began his career as an investor in New York City real estate.  His investment philosophy was straightforward as he himself put it: 

“It has been my rule to keep the value of my property in land, not in buildings. Land can’t wear out, can’t deteriorate, doesn’t demand insurance and doesn’t need repairs. The value of land constantly advances. That of buildings constantly deteriorates. I never mortgage my property. I prefer to lease my land to others to build upon, or to lease it for purposes not re­quiring big buildings. That is what I call scientific investment.” 

When C. E. Appleby was 35, he married Sara Elise Storm, daughter of Isaac A. Storm and Helen Bailey.  The marriage produced two sons, Edgar S. Appleby and John S. Appleby.  C. E. Appleby had real estate interests in many parts of Manhattan when he died in 1913 (leaving an estate by some estimates valued at $25-$50 million), but by the time John S. Appleby founded Four Plus Corporation in 1935, he endowed it only with his 50% interest in four blocks on the West side of Manhattan (presumably the Great Depression played a part in reducing the family’s holdings), with the other 50% being held by his brother, Edgar S. Appleby.   

The four blocks were in two pairs, all between 11th and 12th Avenues; a southerly pair, between 39th and 41st Streets, and a northerly pair between 56th and 58th Streets.  The southerly pair, between 39th and 41st Streets, were disposed of or taken through condemnation by New York City in the period from 1989 to 1993.  Today, Four Plus Corporation continues to own the northerly pair between 56th and 58th Streets.

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