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Russell Dischinger, real estate appraiser and Federal Hill renovation pioneer, dies

Russell Dischinger formed the real estate firm Altman, Dischinger & Hoffberger.
Russell Dischinger formed the real estate firm Altman, Dischinger & Hoffberger.

Russell Dischinger, a real estate appraiser and former president of The Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fell’s Point, died of heart disease Aug. 27 at his home in Brooksville, Maine. He was 72 and formerly lived on Montgomery Street in Federal Hill and in Bolton Hill.

Born Harry Russell Dischinger in Baltimore and raised in Roland Park, he was the son of Harry Robert Dischinger, who owned Better Air Products, and Ruth D. Shriver, a Bryn Mawr dietitian and homemaker.

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He was a 1967 graduate of St. Paul’s School for Boys, where he played basketball and soccer. He attended Jacksonville University in Florida and the University of Baltimore.

Mr. Dischinger was among a group of renovation pioneers in Federal Hill after initially purchasing a William Street home. He later renovated properties throughout South Baltimore.

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“Russ was a pioneer in the 1970s and ‘80s with helping develop the Federal Hill neighborhood of South Baltimore,” said his brother, Peter Dischinger, who formed a construction business and also worked in Federal Hill.

“As a past president of the Federal Hill and Fell’s Point Society, he was among the fighters who helped stop a planned interstate highway through the harbor and carving up the neighborhood,” his brother said. “At that time, many of the homes had been boarded up and vacant.”

His brother also said that as a pioneering renovator, he began renovating and restoring homes. Mr. Dischinger lived through the construction, and encouraged friends and contemporaries to move to Federal Hill.

“His old friends followed his lead down to Federal Hill,” his brother said.

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Mr. Dischinger received a real estate sales license with the firm Chase, Fitzgerald and Davis in 1975.

“Russ had his own approach to selling a property,” said a friend, Walter Schamu, a Federal Hill resident. “He’d open the door and let you in, then he would be silent. He had an amazing passive sales style. You had to convince yourself, and he was happy to let you do it.”

Friends recalled visits to Mr. Dischinger’s home on Sunday afternoons where they mixed and enjoyed food and drink.

Mr. Dischinger later formed the real estate firm Altman, Dischinger & Hoffberger with an office at Montgomery and South Charles streets.

In the mid-1970s, this company was considered the leading brokerage firm in Federal Hill, his brother said.

In 1979, Mr. Dischinger joined the Hill & Co. real estate firm. He then sold properties throughout North Baltimore as well as in Federal Hill.

Mr. Dischinger spent summers of his youth with his grandparents in West Tremont on Mount Desert Island, where he developed a love of Maine.

He and Martha “Marty” Sheriff married in Northeast Harbor, Maine, in 1986 after they had purchased a summer home in Manset.

They left Baltimore and moved to Maine and eventually settled in Apple Hill, in Brooksville.

Mr. Dischinger founded Coastal Island Appraisals in 1993. He was a real estate appraiser and worked with attorneys and banks, often evaluating Hancock County coastal estates.

“Russ was a true entrepreneur and relied upon his own instincts and ability to create businesses independently,” said his brother.

Mr. Dischinger served a four-year term as a selectman in Brooklin, Maine.

He and his wife enjoyed traveling, often to Italy to break up the winter months. He also followed professional basketball and football.

“He was politically active and liked to discuss his views if so engaged,” said his brother. “He had a quick wit and always thought of a pun at a moment’s notice.”

He enjoyed his boat, Seabiscuit, which was moored at Buck’s Harbor Yacht Club.

When younger and healthier, he hiked the mountain trails of Acadia and swam in the lakes and ponds of Mount Desert.

A celebration of life is being planned in Baltimore. No date has been set.

Survivors include his wife of 35 years, Martha Sheriff Dischinger, who sells real estate in Maine; his brother, Peter Dischinger of Baltimore; and a sister, Lin D. Waters, also of Baltimore.

Also surviving are three stepsons, Peter Altman of Bangkok, Thailand, John Altman of Brooksville and Ian Altman of Durango, Colorado; and nine grandchildren.

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