Thursday, December 24, 2015


When I was doing the research for the recent article on Ida Hippach I wrote for this blog, I kept running into references to the “Hippach Memorial Chapel.”  I had never heard of it and I knew that neither Ida nor her husband Louis nor their children were interred in the Hippach Memorial Chapel – they are all resting at Rosehill Cemetery.  Since I was running into references to the chapel more and more frequently I decided to look into it further, and determined that it would make a good story for the blog, like the earlier story I did on the May Memorial Chapel in Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery.

The “News About the Neighbors” column in the Chicago Daily Tribune from March 4, 1928 carried the following item:

In the Green Ridge Cemetery at Butterfield and Roosevelt Roads, stands a new chapel, said to be the most artistic of its kind in Cook county.  It was erected by Louis A. Hippach, of 2808 Sheridan place, Evanston, as a memorial to his father and mother, and his friends estimate he expended $200,000 on it.  The ceiling is covered with original works of art.

Before we take a closer look at the magnificent chapel Louis Hippach had built to honor his parents, let’s take a closer look at who they were.

Louis Hippach’s father was christened Franz Josef Hippach shortly after his birth on March 5, 1830 at Simonswolde, Hannover, Germany.  His father was also named Franz Josef Hippach (1807-1835).  Louis’ mother was Catherine, nee Schultis (1810-1838).   Franz the younger came to the US in 1852, settling in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  He was farmer by trade.

Louis’ mother was christened Magdalena Everling (some sources say “Eberlin”).  She was born January 17, 1833 in Buweiler (near Trier) Germany.  Her parents were John Everling and Mary, nee Gern.  John Everling was also a farmer.  Magdalena Everling came to the US with her family in 1843, settling in Lamartine, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin.           

Franz (now Frank) Hippach and Magdalena (now Lena) Everling were married in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin on February 5, 1855.  They were blessed with five children:  Frank Joseph Jr (1855-1928), Charles Frederick (1857-1931), Emma Melinda (1859-1955), Edward Victor (1861-1925), and Louis Albert (1864-1935).

The 1855 Wisconsin State Census (June 1, 1855) shows the family living in Lamartine, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin.  It does not give a lot of information but does indicate that there were four people living in the house: two white males and two white females, and that all four were foreign born.  So, Frank and Lena were living with another couple – perhaps his or her parents.

The next census is the US Census of 1860.  The Hippach family is still living in Lamartine, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin.  The family is composed of thirty year old Frank born in Germany, his wife twenty-seven year old “Helena” born in “Prussia”, four year old Frank, three year old Charles F., and one year old “Emily”.  The children were all correctly reported as having been born in Wisconsin.  Frank reported his occupation as “Farmer” and said that he had real estate worth $400 and personalty worth $200.      

Frank Hippach was a “gung-ho” American, as most immigrants are, so he watched with interest the events surrounding the Civil War in the United States.  It was thought by many that the Civil War (or as it was known then “The War of the Rebellion”) would be short, but the opposite turned out to be true.  As the war dragged through 1863 Frank decided he had to act.  On February 26, 1864 Frank J. Hippach enlisted in the United States Army – specifically as a private in the 35th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry.  History does not record how Lena Hippach, at home with four children and one newborn (Louis was born January 22, 1864) felt about Frank’s decision to enlist, but there were no more new babies in the Hippach family after the war was over. 

The Wisconsin 35thcame into the war later than some of the other regiments, so as a result did not see as much action.   Here, from the Regimental History of the 35this a recap of their service:

SERVICE.--Duty at Port Hudson, La., until June 27, 1864. Moved to Morganza, La., June 27, and duty there until July 24. Moved to St. Charles, Ark., July 24, and duty there until August 6. Return to Morganza August 6-12. Expedition to Simsport October 1-10. Moved to Devall's Bluff, Ark., October 11-18. To Brownsville November 9, and guard Memphis & Little Rock Railroad until December 12. Moved to Devall's Bluff December 12, and duty there until February 7, 1865. Moved to Algiers, La., February 7, thence to Mobile Point, Ala., February 22. Campaign against Mobile and its defenses March 17-April 12. Siege of Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely March 26-April 8. Assault on and capture of Fort Blakely April 9. Occupation of Mobile April 12. March to Mcintosh Bluff April 13-26. Moved to Mobile May 9, and duty there until June 1. Moved to Brazos Santiago, Texas, June 1-8, thence to Clarksville June 20, and to Brownsville August 2. Duty at Brownsville until March, 1866. Mustered out March 15, 1866.

Regiment lost during service 2 Enlisted men killed and 3 Officers and 271 Enlisted men by disease. Total 276.

Frank Hippach mustered out on March 15, 1866 with the rest of the Wisconsin 35th.  He was not wounded in the traditional way, but during his Service he developed a severe case of rheumatism, which he suffered with for the rest of his life.

I was unable to locate the Hippach family in the 1870 US Census, but by 1880 there were some developments worth noting.  The 1880 US Census finds that the Frank Hippach family has broken up and was spread all over the US.  Frank Hippach Sr. is homesteading in Cedar County, Nebraska.  He told the census taker that he was divorced.  I could not find Lena Hippach in the 1880 census at all. Frank Jr. is farming with his father in Nebraska.  Charles is in Milwaukee, working as a clerk in a grocery, Emma is a dressmaker in Chicago and Edward is living in Ruby City Colorado where he is a miner.  I could not find Louis Hippach anywhere in the 1880 US Census.

Frank Hippach Sr's sojourn in Nebraska didn’t last long, because by the end of 1880 he was claiming to be permanently disabled as a result of the rheumatism he caught while in the Army.  On May 25, 1884 he was admitted to the North-Western Branch of the National Home for Disabled Soldiers and granted a pension of $20.00 per month.

There are two interesting facts from Frank Hippach's records at the Home:  his marital status was listed as "Married and Parted" and his religious affiliation is listed as "Catholic."  This is the first mention of Catholicism for any member of the extended Hippach family.

The 1890 US Census is lost, but the 1900 US Census does reveal a few things.  Frank, of course, is still in the  National Home for Disabled Soldiers (where he will remain until his death).  Lena (and Charles) are living with Emma (now Mrs. Charles West) at 4348 Grand Boulevard in Chicago. A trucking company occupies that plot today.  Emma's husband is a dentist.  Lena Hippach told the census taker that she was a "Widow", and further that she had given birth to only one child, and that one child was still alive in 1900 - although she was living with two of her children at the time.  This is just another example of why I do not put too much trust in genealogy data taken from the census.  People lied, or mis-stated the facts, to the census takers all the time.  Charles Hippach lists his occupation as "Foreman."

Frank Hippach Sr died in the hospital at the National Home for Disabled Soldiers on February 29, 1908.  The Cause of Death was listed as "Broncho Pneumonia with Acute Cardiac Dilatation."  His body was released to S.F. Peacock & Sons Undertakers for shipment to Chicago. Frank Hippach's personal effects, including 95 cents in cash, was "shipped April 2, 1908 to Magdalena Hippach, 111 North Clinton Street, Chicago, Ills., widow."

Even though Frank Hippach had lived most of his adult life in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, the family decided to bring him back to Chicago for burial – but where to bury him?  When two of Louis Hippach’s sons died tragically in the Iroquois Theater fire of 1903, the decision was made to bury them in Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery, but ultimately the family decided to bury Frank in Forest Home Cemetery in suburban Forest Park.  This was an unusual choice if Frank was a Catholic, because Chicago had a large and diverse number of Catholic cemeteries, but Forest Home was very popular with the German speaking population of Chicagoland.  Perhaps Louis had already conceived of the idea to have a suitable memorial built at a later date after Lena’s death, and thought the burial at Forest Home would be temporary.

Lena Hippach might have been separated from Frank when he died, but that did not stop her from applying for his Civil War Widow’s Pension on October 24, 1908.  An application was filed but no certificate was issued, so it appears that Lena’s claim was denied.

The 1910 US Census shows seventy eight year old Lena Hippach still living with her daughter Emma and family in the West home at 4248 Grand Boulevard in Chicago.

Magdalena Everling Hippach died May 14, 1922 in Chicago.  She was eighty nine years old.  Here is her Death Notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune of May 15, 1922:     

Her Death Record indicated that like her late husband, Lena Hippach would be buried at Forest Home Cemetery.

History does not record exactly when Louis Hippach decided to have a chapel built to honor his late parents.  It could have been after his father died in 1908, or after his mother died in 1922, but the fact is that he did decide to have a chapel built in their memory.  We know that Louis' two sons who died in the Iroquois Theater fire were buried at Rosehill Cemetery on Chicago's north side, as was his third son Howard who died in an auto accident in 1914.  Perhaps when Louis was at Rosehill he had seen the magnificent chapel that Anna May had built there to honor her late husband Horatio N. May in 1899.  You can read more about that here:

But Rosehill did not need another chapel, so Louis had to look around Chicagoland to see what would be a suitable spot for his parents' memorial chapel.  Louis' wife Ida's parents (Fischer) were buried at Wunders Cemetery in Chicago.  Wunder's Cemetery is too small for a free-standing chapel.  Graceland also had one chapel and no room (or need) for another.  If Louis' father Francis had been Catholic as indicated, Louis could have erected a chapel in one of Chicagoland's many Catholic Cemeteries but then it would have to be dedicated to a saint or other figure from religion - not Frank and Ida Hippach.

How about Forest Home Cemetery, where they had originally been buried?  It certainly was big enough for a free-standing chapel, but perhaps Louis didn't like Forest Home - or Forest Home's management had not jumped at the idea of a memorial chapel.  Soon Louis Hippach began to realize that he would have to go out of the city to find a suitable cemetery - maybe even outside of Cook County.  After an extensive survey, he ended up with Green Ridge Cemetery in (then) unincorporated DuPage County, Illinois.  Green Ridge had been started in the 1920s and at that time it's location was considered "way out in the country" although these days the city has caught up with it.  It is now called Chapel Hill Gardens West Cemetery and is located at 17W201 Roosevelt Road in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois. Chapel Hill Gardens West is now owned by Service Corporation International, but in the mid-1920s it was privately owned, and the owners could not have been more pleased that Louis chose to build his chapel at Green Ridge.    

Now the next step - who to choose for an architect?   Louis Hippach did not have to look too far to find someone suitable.  He chose Arthur Woltersdorf, who he had previously chosen to design the Howard Hippach Memorial Field at the Abbott School in Maine as a memorial to his son who was tragically killed in an auto accident shortly after graduation in 1914.  In addition, to provide sculptures for the chapel, Hippach hired Richard W. Bock, a one-time collaborator with Frank Lloyd Wright.  Before we move on to the chapel itself, let's take a minute to take a quick look at the chapel's architect and sculptor.

The architect, Arthur F. Woltersdorf was born in Chicago in 1870. He attended public schools in Chicago, and later took a course in architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After returning to Chicago in 1894, he became established as a partner in the firm of Woltersdorf and Bernhard.  During this time the firm designed one of the most unusual buildings in the city, the Tree Studios on the east side of State Street,  between Ohio and Ontario Sts.  It became the nucleus of an artists' colony.

During the 1920s Mr. Walter­sdorf wrote extensively on the theory and practice of his profession . Many of his columns were printed in Chicago newspapers.  He also wrote a book, titled Living Architecture.

In addition to the Tree Studios, among the buildings he designed in Chicago are St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran church, the Mirador office building, and the Woodlawn branch of the Chicago Public Library.

Woltersdorf served as president of the Illinois Society of Architects and was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. He died in 1948 and is buried in Forest Home Cemetery.  He has a very unusual tombstone, which coincidentally was designed by Richard W. Bock: 

Sculptor Richard W. Bock was born in Shloppen, West Prussia on July 16, 1865.  At the age of 4, he emigrated to Chicago.  Bock studied at the Mechanic's Institute of Chicago and privately with Frederick Almenraeder.  Both, later, worked at North Western Terra Cotta.  By 1885 he was with Herter Brothers in New York.  Bock studied in Berlin at Kaiserliche, Konigliche Kunstgewerbe Museum, where he formed a lasting friendship with Karl Bitter.  He continued to Paris 1890 where he studied in Falguire's Studio at the Ecole des Arts.  Classmates included Bella Pratt, Hermon MacNeil, and John Flanagan.  His career included work with Solon Beman at the Columbian Exposition; with Louis Sullivan at the Auditorium Theater and the Schiller Building; with Dwight Perkins at the Omaha Exposition and with Frank Lloyd Wright at Midway Gardens.  He died on June 29, 1949 and is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.

Richard Bock

Now back to the chapel itself.  Here is a description of the chapel and its adornments:  

The chapel presents a plain high-pitched roof, the walls are of fitted various-sized blocks of sandstone, the windows are of Gothic design in leaded amber colored glass.  The main feature is a square tower with a porte-cochere connecting it with the building at the main entrance.   Here Bock placed a memorial urn, bronze, five and one half feet tall, which holds a record of the important world events of the 1920s, including eight panels showing man from the cradle to the grave and a row of portrait heads of the world's great philosophers and religious prophets.

On the urn are found relief heads of Christ, Mohammed, Moses, Buddha, Shiva, Thor, Zeus, and Isis. A most "catholic" array of religious figures. Under these heads are representations of Maternity and Childhood, Education, Labor, Enlightenment, Love and Life, Harvest, Old Age Victorious, and Parting of the Thread of Life. 

Below the urn are three basins from which water flows in cascades from one to another representing the River of Life.  According to Bock, it took over a year to complete this one sculpture alone. 

The tower terminates at the top with over life sized figures resting their arms on the cornice - one depicting a bearded male philosopher, one a hooded female figure, one a shepherd, and one a young maiden. 


On the interior, the exposed black walnut beams of the chapel terminate in corbels, four on each side, which are carved with figures holding shields to represent different ages. The ceiling and the wall over the altar are adorned with murals. Flanking the altar mural are bronze tablets depicting kneeling angels holding wreaths.

Outside the rear of the chapel are the graves of Louis Hippach's parents adorned at the foot with a figure of Hermes, shaped in an obelisk, with the suggestion of wings and other symbolic designs representing life.

Here are some of Arthur Woltersdorf's original architectural drawings for the chapel:

Here is a photo from the Chicago Daily Tribune of the dedication of the chapel on September 30, 1928:

At first I thought it was strange that Louis Hippach's parents, Frank and Lena Hippach, are not interred inside the chapel - they are buried in the ground in a plot behind the chapel.  One writer noted that he almost lost his mind trying to find Frank and Lena's tombs inside the chapel.  He recounted that as he looked around the inside, he did not see any sarcophagi, so he thought they may have been buried under the floor, as is sometimes done in churches in Europe.  He went over the place with a fine-toothed comb to no avail, then almost literally stumbled over the graves as he was taking pictures around the outside of the chapel.

But as I was thinking about this, I realized that it was perhaps not strange at all.  After all, Horatio and Anna May are not interred inside the May Chapel at Rosehill; their graves are in a plot of ground outside the east wall of the chapel.

As mentioned above, the Hippach Memorial Chapel is located in a cemetery now called  Chapel Hill Gardens West in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, owned by SCI.  They are justly proud of  this beautiful work of art, and it features prominently in their advertisements.  In 2007, the cemetery refurbished the chapel, restoring it to its former glory.

In addition, I understand that they have added several banks of cremation niches inside the chapel, so it is possible to have this magnificent chapel as the final resting place for you and your family.  Whoever thought of that idea deserves a gold star!  I wish Rosehill would do something similar with the May Chapel.  I would love to be interred there, as I'm sure many others would as well.

So now you know the story of a son's gift to Chicagoland in appreciation of his parents.  Thanks to the generosity of Louis Hippach, the magnificent work of art that is his memorial to his parents will be enjoyed by countless thousands for years to come.

May Frank and Lena Hippach rest in peace.

Friday, December 11, 2015


The Chicago Daily Tribune from April 16, 1912 while reporting on the sinking of the RMSTitanic carried the following article:


Mrs. Ida S. Hippach and Her Daughter 
and E. G. Lewy Titanic Passengers.

Relatives Await News.

Several Former Residents Among Ocean Travelers
Probably Drowned at Sea.

Three Chicagoans were among the first class passengers on the Titanic.

They were:
Mrs. Ida S. Hippach, 7360 Sheridan road, wife of L. A. Hippach of Tyler & Hippach, glass dealers
Miss Jean Hippach, 15 years old, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. L.A. Hippach
Ervin G. Lewy, 30 years old, 3620 South Park avenue, member of the jewelry firm of Lewy Bros., 201 South State street. 

“My wife and daughter have been traveling in Europe since last January,” said Mr. Hippach, who, with his residence closed, was waiting anxiously for news at the Illinois Athletic club.  “My hope that they are saved is based on the report that the women and children were taken care of first.”

Mr. Lewy was returning from his annual buying trip to Antwerp and Amsterdam.  Two brothers, J.B. Lewy and M.D. Lewy, anxiously await the list of the rescued.  Mr. Lewy is unmarried. (Note:  Ervin Lewy did not survive.  His body, if recovered, was never identified.)

Some of the people who read that article about the Chicagoans on the Titanic might have remembered the Hippach name in connection with another tragedy, the Iroquois Theater fire of December 30, 1903. Among the victims were Robert and Archie Hippach, two of the sons of Ida Hippach and her husband Louis.  How ironic (and sad) that one mother was connected with two of the most famous disasters in modern history.  Unfortunately these two events were not the only tragedies in the life of Ida Hippach.  Before we look at what happened to Ida and her family, let’s take a closer look at Ida herself.

Ida Sophia Fischer was born in Chicago on November 24, 1866, to Edward Fischer (1829-1891), and Julia, nee Boehm (1829-1907).  Ida had a brother Edward (1863-????), and a sister, Julia (1870-????).  Ida’s father Edward Fischer was a painter by trade. 

On June 28, 1888 Ida Sophia Fischer married Louis A. Hippach at St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chicago.  The bride was twenty-one; the groom was twenty-five.

Louis Albert Hippach was born January 22, 1864 in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, to Franz Joseph Hippach (1830-1908) and Magdalena, nee Everling - some sources say “Eberlin” (1833-1922).  Franz Joseph Hippach (as “Frank J. Hippach”) enlisted and fought with the Wisconsin 35th Infantry Regiment in the American Civil War.  In addition to their son Louis, Franz and Magdalena Hippach had three other sons:  Frank Joseph (1855-1928), Charles Frederick (1862-1931) and Edward Victor (1861-1925), and one daughter, Emma Melinda (1859-1955). 

When Ida Fischer married Louis Hippach in 1888, Hippach was the Vice President of Tyler & Hippach Glass Company which he founded with Albert S. Tyler.  Tyler & Hippach Glass Company was bought out by Globe Glass and Trim in 1963.   

Ida and Louis Hippach were blessed with four children; Robert Louis (1889-1903), Albert Archibald called "Archie" (1892-1903), Agnes Gertrude called "Jean" (1894-1974), and Howard Henry (1896-1914).   

The 1900 US Census found Ida Hippach and her family living at 191 (now 5845) NW Circle Avenue in the Old Norwood Park neighborhood of Chicago. 

5845 NW Circle Avenue, Chicago

Chicagoans, for the most part, are familiar with the fire that ravaged the Iroquois Theater in Chicago on December 30, 1903.  It was Christmas vacation and the schools were closed.  The Iroquois Theater, which had just opened in November presented a matinee performance of the popular Drury Lane musical Mr. Bluebeard, which had been playing at the Iroquois since opening night.  The play, a burlesque of the traditional Bluebeard folk tale, featured Dan McAvoy as Bluebeard and Eddie Foy as Sister Anne, a role that let him showcase his physical comedy skills. Attendance since opening night had been disappointing, people having been driven away by poor weather, labor unrest, and other factors.  The December 30 performance drew a much larger sellout audience.  Tickets were sold for every seat in the house, plus hundreds more for the "standing room" areas at the back of the theater. Many of the estimated 2,100–2,200 patrons attending the matinee were children. The standing room areas were so crowded that some patrons instead sat in the aisles, blocking the exits.

The fire started when sparks from an arc light ignited a muslin curtain, probably as a result of an electrical short circuit.  The fire quickly spread, and by this time, many of the patrons on all levels were quickly attempting to flee the theater.  Some had found the fire exits hidden behind draperies on the north side of the building, but found that the exit doors were locked.  Several exit doors were finally opened by brute force, but most of the exit doors could not be opened.  Some patrons panicked, crushing or trampling others in a desperate attempt to escape from the fire.  Many were killed while trapped in dead ends or while trying to open what looked like doors with windows in but were actually only windows. 

By the time it was over, it was the deadliest theater fire and the deadliest single-building fire in United States history.  At least 602 people died as a result of the fire, but not all the deaths were reported, as some of the bodies were removed from the scene.

Two of the victims were sons of Ida and Louis Hippach, fourteen year old Robert, and eleven year old Archie.  Here are their Death Notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune of  January 3, 1904: 

At the time of the fire, the Hippach family was living at 2928 (now 6149) N. Kenmore Avenue in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago.  A parking lot occupies that space today.  Funeral services for the boys were held at the Episcopal Church of the Atonement in Chicago.  They were buried in the Hippach family plot in Rosehill Cemetery.

In September of 1904 Ida applied for a passport, reporting that she was traveling to Berlin, Germany for two years, and taking Gertrude (Jean) and Howard with her.  

Adding to her grief, Ida’s mother Julia died October 4, 1907.     

But, life went on for Ida Hippach.  By the 1910 US Census, the Hippachs had moved to 7360 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago.  At that time, the family consisted of Louis and Ida, daughter Gertrude (Jean) and son Howard.  A nursing home occupies that spot today.

Ida Hippach was deeply bereft over the loss of her two sons, and then her mother.  It was decided that she and Jean should take another extended European vacation starting in January of 1911.  It was thought that a further change of scenery might do them some good.  Louis Hippach couldn’t leave his business, and Howard had gotten an internship with an engineering company in North Carolina so he had no interest in joining his mother and sister.  In addition to a change of scenery they decided that Jean would study music for a time in Germany.  Louis Hippach did not want to stay in the big house on Sheridan Road by himself, so he closed up the house and moved into the Illinois Athletic Club in downtown Chicago.  

Ida and Jean Hippach finished their vacation in France and on April 10, 1912 she purchased two first class tickets in Cherbourg, France on the R.M.S. Titanic bound for New York City on her maiden voyage.

The mother and daughter boarded the Titanic in Cherbourg, France traveling first class. They later claimed they had not wanted to board the ship, not trusting a maiden voyage but White Star employees had told them that there was only one First Class cabin left, implying that everyone wanted to go on the ship.  They felt lucky to get their ticket, only to discover that the ship was only partially full.   They were in First Class cabin B-18.  Mrs. Hippach related later that "Everyone was saying Sunday evening that we were ahead of schedule and that we would break the speed records." She and her daughter were both asleep when the Titanic struck the iceberg.  Ida Hippach thought the shock of the collision was mild.  Her daughter continued sleeping until the roar of the steam escaping through the funnels woke her.  They put on their wraps and rushed out into the corridor.  They heard everybody asking, "What is that? Did you hear that?"

Ida Hippach said that she had heard someone say that they hit an iceberg, but no one was alarmed or thought there was any danger.  After all, the Titanic was unsinkable.  Mrs. Hippach decided to go out on deck because she wanted to see the iceberg as she had never seen one.  An officer, walking past, told them to return to their room.  "Ladies, go back to bed.  you'll catch cold."

They went back to their stateroom, but decided to dress and go back out into the corridor.  They were told to return to their room and get a life jacket.

As Mrs. Hippach and her daughter came on deck they saw a lifeboat being lowered.  They did not get into line to board one, because they thought it would be safer on the ship rather than be in a flimsy lifeboat in the icy water.  They watched an officer trying to get people into Boats 2 and 6, noting how few people were in each as they were lowered.  Passengers talked to each other, at first saying the boat was in no danger.  Then they were told the Titanic would stay afloat for at least 24 hours and that they were safer remaining on board, confirming their earlier opinion.  Later, they were told that the Olympic was near and some ship's lights were pointed out.  As with most of the passengers, Ida Hippach had no clue that there were not enough lifeboats for everyone.   

They were walking by Lifeboat 4 as it was being loaded and John Jacob Astor told them to get in, although he said there was no danger. The lifeboat had been lowered somewhat already so Ida and her daughter had to climb through a window and into the lifeboat.  The lifeboat had gotten got a small amount of water in it and a man that Mrs. Hippach said later she thought was a third class passenger jumped into the boat (although he was probably a crew member).  The women had to help row away from the Titanic.

Looking back as she rowed away, Ida Hippach now knew the Titanic was sinking because the portholes were so near to the water.  She heard someone calling for the life boat to return to pick up more passengers, but they did not dare.  From their position, about 450 feet from the ship, they heard a "fearful explosion" and watched the Titanic split apart and sink.

They rowed away faster, expecting the suction to pull at them.  The lights all went out one by one then they all went out in a flash, except for a lantern on a mast.  Hearing the fearful cry from people in the icy water, they rowed back and were able to pick about eight men out.

Later in the morning they saw the Carpathia and they rowed about two miles to the ship.  Mrs. Hippach was taken aboard in a swinging seat. “My, but it was good to be taken aboard and nursed,” she later recounted.

Jean and Ida Hippach about the time of the Titanic disaster 

Louis Hippach and his son Howard were uncertain at first whether they were Ida and Jean had been rescued, however by April 17 the Chicago papers announced their rescue.  Howard Hippach had in internship at an engineering firm in North Carolina, and he and Mr. Hippach traveled to New York City to meet the Hippach women.  After their joyous reunion, the Hippach family arrived back in Chicago on April 21, 1912 aboard the Twentieth Century Limited.

In the 1913 Chicago Blue Book of Selected Names of Prominent Residents, Mrs. L. A. Hippach reported that her Receiving Day was "Wednesday."

Although the Titanic story had a happy ending for Ida Hippach and her daughter, tragedy was not done with the Hippach family.  On October 29, 1914 Ida's one surviving son, Howard Hippach was killed in an automobile accident outside of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Howard Hippach

Here’s the story from the Lewiston (Maine) Evening Journal from May 15, 1933:

Entering or leaving Farmington on Route 4, the attention of strangers is always attracted by the attractive gate at the Howard Hippach Memorial Athletic Field.  This field, with its ornamental gates is a memorial to one of the most popular boys who ever attended the Abbot school, whose tragic death soon after graduation in 1914 is as great a mystery today as it was then.  It was the gift to the school of his father, L. A. Hippach of Chicago.

Upon his graduation, young Hippach returned to his home in Chicago, planning to enter college that fall.  One morning he left home for a ride in his big, high-powered – for those days – roadster.  With him on the spare seat rode his pet dog.  It was never possible to learn what had occurred after he drove away from home.  No one appeared to have seen him; he visited no place.

From that moment until he was found, a few hours later, dead beneath his car on Lakeside drive, the little dog standing guard over him, no trace was ever had of the route he had followed, or where he went or what he did.

Here is the Death Notice for Howard Hippach from the Chicago Daily Tribune of October 30, 1914:

Howard is buried in the family plot at Rosehill:

Howard's death left Jean Hippach as the only survivor from among Ida's four children.

The Chicago Daily Tribune from August 25, 1915 brought another tale of tragedy connected with the Hippach family:

According to the article, Jean Hippach nearly collapsed with grief over what had happened.

The 1920 US Census finds what was left of the Hippach family living at 2808 Sheridan Place in Evanston.

2808 Sheridan Place, Evanston

Jean no longer lived at home - she had married Hjalmar Unander-Scharin on January 3, 1920, at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago.  At the Sheridan Road address were Louis Hippach, aged fifty-five, and Ida, aged fifty, along with servants Emma and Herman Bunzli and chauffeur Theodore Boychuz and his wife Mary.  Louis Hippach reported that he owned the home free and clear, and that his occupation was "Wholesale Merchant of Glass."

In 1921 Louis Hippach applied for a passport to travel all through the Far-East ("China, Japan, Burma, Philippine Islands, Hawaiian Islands, Samoa and Korea") on behalf of Tyler & Hippach.  Ida Hippach did not accompany her husband.

Ida Hippach also did not accompany her husband when he sailed to Cherbourg, France in 1928, or to Key West, Florida in 1930, or to San Diego, California in 1930 or to San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1932. One may have thought that after her 1912 trip that Ida Hippach was through with sailing, but that was not the case.  As early as August of 1913 Ida sailed to Hamburg, Germany and back to New York on the S. S. Imperator, without incident.  Traveling in the summertime, the chances of encountering an iceberg were extremely unlikely.

Don't think, however, that while Louis Hippach was traveling the world, Ida was passing the time by staying at home. During her married life she managed at least one trip to Europe per year, supplemented by trips to Hawaii, Cuba, etc.

The 1930 US Census shows Louis and Ida Hippach still living at 2808 Sheridan Place in Evanston. Louis indicates his occupation as "Merchant in the Glass Industry."  In addition to Louis and Ida, there is their maid Elizabeth Swanson and a Lodger named Syesuke Takalaski from Japan. Louis reported his home worth $125,000.00, and said that they did own a radio.

Jean Hippach Unander-Scharin sued her husband for divorce on June 4, 1930, charging infidelity and asking for custody of their three children.

Louis Hippach suffered a heart attack on May 29, 1935 at his home in Evanston.  He was admitted to Passavant Hospital in Chicago where he died on May 30, 1935 as a consequence of his heart attack. He was seventy-one years old.  Here is his death certificate, and a later certificate correcting his date of birth and age:

Here's his Death Notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune, June 1, 1935:

and his obituary from June 2, 1935:

Louis was buried alongside his three sons in the family plot at Rosehill Cemetery. 

Louis Hippach

By the time of the 1940 US Census, the house at 2808 Sheridan Place in Evanston was full again. In addition to seventy-one year old Ida, there was her daughter Jean Scharin, Jean's children, eighteen year old Howard, fourteen year old Jean and ten year old Louise, nurses Barbara Bruck, Marie Peterson and Minerva Prescott, and servants Sarah Lundi and Frances Sauer. Paul Holmgren was living in the coach-house.

Ida Sophia Fischer Hippach died at home on September 22, 1940 of complications from a stroke.  She was seventy-two years old.  Here is her Death Certificate:

Ida had died September 22, 1940 and was buried the very next day, September 23, 1940 - unusual for a family that was not Jewish.

Here is her Obituary from the Chicago Daily Tribune of September 23, 1940:

and her Death Notice from the same day:

She was laid to rest next to her husband and three sons at the family plot in Rosehill:

People who are not well-to-do may take a look at Ida Hippach and envy her.  She was married to a rich and successful man, she had a beautiful home, beautiful children and plenty of money to travel or spend her time any way she wanted to.  And yet upon a closer look, Ida Hippach's life is not so attractive after all.  Yes, she had money, but as we can see from her life story, money does not shield a person from tragedy and loss.  On the other hand, someone once said, "Money doesn't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery a lot easier to live with."

Ida Sophia Fischer Hippach - a woman who lost two sons in the Iroquois Theater fire and then sailed on the Titanic - may she rest in peace.

Friday, November 27, 2015


If you drive the tree-lined roads of Memorial Park Cemetery in suburban Chicagoland, you may happen upon an impressive monument by the side of the road:

It is the burial site of William Collin (“Billy”) Levere who was intimately associated with the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at Evanston’s Northwestern University.  This name may ring a bell because there is an impressive gothic church-like structure on Sheridan Road in Evanston called the “Levere Memorial Temple.”  Let’s see what we can find out about this man to deserve such an impressive burial site, and a temple named after him.

William Collin Levere was born October 10, 1867 in New Haven, Connecticut to Charles Frederick Levere (1842-1910) and Mary, nee Collins (1844-1881).  Charles and Mary had been married in New Haven on November 1, 1866.  They had one other son in addition to Billy:   Frederick Edwin Levere (1874-1960).  There are some sources that list another brother, John Levere, but I was not able to find any evidence of him.  Charles Levere was a harness maker by trade.

William Levere as an infant

While researching this article, I stumbled across an interesting inconsistency.  Most every source lists William Levere’s date of birth as October 10, 1872; however he shows up on the 1870 US Census for New Haven, Connecticut.  According to the census he was 2 years old on July 2, 1870.  That would make his actual date of birth October 10, 1867.  He correctly reported his month and year of birth as October, 1867 for the 1900 Census, but for the 1910 Census he said he was 27 when he was actually 32.  From that point on, he consistently reported his date of birth as October 10, 1872 – including when he applied for a US Passport in 1917. 

In grade school, young Billy Levere cultivated a talent for public speaking.  He won several oratory contests and toured New England where he was asked to speak on a wide variety of topics with temperance being his favorite topic.  

William Levere c.1880

When Levere was fourteen years old, his life changed forever after meeting the “First Lady of Temperence” Francis Willard.  She suggested that he move to Evanston, Illinois which was her adopted home town.  Levere’s mother had died in September of 1881 so perhaps he thought it was time for a change. Francis Willard helped Billy Levere gain admittance to Northwestern Academy where he attended high school, and later Northwestern University.  During this time Levere continued to lecture on the national temperance circuit and took odd jobs to pay for his school tuition and room and board.

William Levere with his brother Frederick, c.1885

William Levere c. 1887

Interestingly, at first Billy Levere didn’t have much use for fraternities.  In fact he was the leader of the anti-fraternity movement at Northwestern.  However, Sigma Alpha Epsilon had established a chapter at Northwestern during the fall of his freshman year, and they actively recruited Levere because of his obvious leadership potential.  Levere was hand-picked by SAE expansionist Harry Bunting who first recruited Levere’s roommate and best friend and then pursued Billy directly.  On September 26, 1894 Levere was initiated as a charter member of the new Psi-Omega chapter where he quickly became a chapter leader.   

Levere eventually left Northwestern to join the temperance lecture circuit full time.  He was increasingly interested in politics and his own literary career.  He was elected Magistrate of the Evanston City Court while still a student at Northwestern in 1897.  Levere ran on the Republican ticket that was headed by another subject of this blog, Mayor William A. Dyche.

William Levere ran unsuccessfully for Evanston City Treasurer in 1899 but was finally elected to that post in 1901.

The 1900 US Census has William C. Levere living at 1577 Sherman Avenue in Evanston.  The former Chandlers Building occupies that site today.  He correctly reported (for the last time) that he had been born in October of 1867.  He reported his occupation as "Justice of the Peace."

Levere served as Evanston City Treasurer from 1901-1903.  During this period, he also pursued his passion for writing.  He was a reporter for the Chicago Evening Post and served as editor of the Evanston Index from 1901-1905.  He also edited the “Greek Quarterly”, was founder of the College Fraternity Reference Bureau, and was editor of SAE periodicals “The Record”, and “Phi Alpha.”

In 1906 William Levere decided to expand his political career beyond the borders of Evanston.  He ran for, and was elected Illinois State Representative.  Springfield didn't suit him, however, and he declined to run for a second term.

Levere’s love for Sigma Alpha Epsilon began to consume increasing amounts of his time.  From 1902-1906 he served as Eminent Supreme Archon, the highest elected position in the fraternity.  He was elected Honorary Eminent Supreme Archon from 1909-1910 and also saw to financial affairs for a time as Eminent Supreme Treasurer.

William Levere - 1910

William Levere was a prolific author during this period.  For SAE, he was the author of the SAE Publications Catalogue 1904; the Original Minutes 1904; Songs of Sigma Alpha Epsilon 1904; Life of Noble Leslie DeVotie 1905; SAE Year Book 1906-12 History of Sigma Alpha Epsilon in three large volumes 1911; Who's Who in SAE 1912; and the SAE Pocket Directory 1912.

Levere’s non-SAE fraternity/sorority work during this period included: delegate to Chicago Greek Conference 1913; Inter-Fraternity Conference 1913; elected member of the Executive Committee of Ten of College Fraternity Reference Bureau; elected National Secretary of same by Executive Committee; editor of the Greek Quarterly since 1913; editor of the Bulletin of the Reference Bureau 1915; organized Northwestern chapter of Kappa Delta sorority which is named in his honor; and gave the annual address before the Northern Illinois Pan-Hellenic Association.

His non-fraternity publications include:  Imperial America 1900; Twixt Greek and Barb 1900; The Evanston Poets 1903; Vivian of Mackinac 1911; Mackinac Days 1915; and Leading Greeks 1915.

The 1910 US Census shows the now younger William C. Levere living at 600 Davis Street in Evanston.

600 Davis Street, Evanston

He gave his age as thirty-seven; he was actually forty-two.  He listed his occupation as “Writer of History.”

William Levere attempted to enlist in the military when the US became involved in World War I in 1917.  Admitting to being 44 (he was really 49) and being almost 250 pounds, his application was rejected.  After his rejection by the military, he turned to non-governmental entities, thinking that their requirements would not be as strict.  So Levere was surprised when his application to the Red Cross was rejected.  As a last resort he applied to the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and to his delight was accepted.  Billy Levere had found his niche with the YMCA. He operated a canteen in France and served the American “doughboys” in much the same way he provided care and comfort to collegiate fraternity members across the country.  His involvement with the YMCA was so significant that Katherine Mayo dedicated an entire chapter to Levere in her 1920 book on the YMCA in World War I entitled That Damn Y.  Mayo described Billy Levere so perfectly that instead of trying to summarize what she wrote about him, I am going to let her tell you herself:

Chapter IX – “What in Hell is Billy’s Other Name?”

MEANTIME, here and there over our war-map, many Y’s had started, notable among them “Billy’s hut” at Neufchateau.

Mr. William C. Levere, of Evanston, Illinois, late city magistrate and State assemblyman, after having vainly tried to persuade the Army to overlook its age limit and give him a chance to enlist, after having vainly tried for acceptance by the Red Cross, came to France in September, 1917, in the service of the Y.

Mr. Levere’s characteristics are, in part: Complete unselfishness; a love and sympathy for boys in which father and mother love and sympathy combine; a wide experience with boys gained as the national head of the Sigma alpha Epsilon; an upright character; a well-balanced, well-stocked, God-fearing mind; a gift of wit and humor and ready speaking; immense good nature; unflagging energy and high spirits; a genius for cookery, and a very noticeable avoirdupois.

Possibly a different equipment might be found equaling in value to our doughboy the equipment of Mr. Levere.  Other Y men, quite different in character, won, in fact, an affection as warm as that which he inspired. But none, it is safe to say, spread wider service or conquered quite so many hearts.  For “Billy’s hut” for many months was the roadhouse of the A.E.F. and “Billy’s” cheer illumined the passage through France. When first he came, they sent him over to Hareville to comfort Company “D” of the First United States Engineers, building camps for troops yet to arrive.

Then, in advance of the coming of the Twenty-Sixth Division, the Y called him to Neufchateau, where an old round tent of the circus type, half covered with green and red and brown camouflage, sat bottomless in a sea of mud.

First for the troops of the Advanced Headquarters of the Service of Supplies, then for the Twenty-Sixth Division, “Billy,” as the Army at once entitled him, made that miserable tent a home.  Later, as the cold increased and as rising winds more and more often swept the tent flat to the ground, a summer beer garden attached to the Hotel Agriculture, in the middle of the town, beckoned with the lure of roof and floor.  So Billy, uprooting his tent, wrapped it around the beer garden’s latticed sides, and continued to shine in the desert until Christmas Eve brought the practical completion of the famous “Billy’s hut.”

Overnight, equipment flew into it – including the piano and the gramophone without which no true hut can exist.  Also a Christmas tree, from the neighboring woods, a tree that reached the roof.

And Billy, by the peculiar grace that is in him, conjured Christmas food into being; and the Y box from Paris, that should have held solid gifts, gave forth instead a deluge of ballet-girls’ costumes, paper coats and hats and bonnets; turkeys and champagne bottles of papier-mache, whistles, balloons, and comic masks and games and toys.  And the gramophone squealed and the piano banged, and the boys, arraying themselves in pink and yellow petticoats, cake-walk jackets, strange hats and stranger faces, whistled and yelled, danced, ate, drank, and played harmless rough-house to their hearts’ content, while Billy, hilarious master of revels, urged them on.  So that Christmas Day at Neufchateau was one big romp.

“Billy’s” was a double hut of standard type.  Its one half contained a stage and an auditorium, for shows, while its parallel twin held scores of small tables where boys might eat and drink, or sit and smoke and chat, or play a game of cards.  Billiard-tables filled one end of the second part, writing-tables the other, a long canteen counter occupied half of one side, and a sufficient number of stoves kept the place really warm.

To say that the hut was at any time clean would show an ignorance of what was possible or even desirable there.  The boys for whom it existed were not clean.  The mud of France, in cakes and smears and bunches, covered them.  They worked in mud, they slept in mud, they ate in mud, they traveled in mud, they waded through mud to get to the place.  Cleanliness, next to beating the Boche the thing they most immediately longed for, was just the thing they could by no means have.

Several permanent units, including some hundreds of Army bakers, fifteen hundred motor mechanics, a host of Headquarters clerks and of Military Police, presently settled in around town.  Troops in force, as the Twenty-Sixth Division, made it their temporary home.  As the war wore on troops in passage continually marched through.  An endless procession of camions, coming and going, laden or empty, thundered past the door by day and by night.  And in and out of the moving mass, like beads of quicksilver, the dispatch riders forever flew.

Now, nobody who could control his movements ever passed Billy’s hut without a stop.  More than once an entire regiment, moving to the front, was halted by its officers and marched through the canteen in squads, to be fed hot coffee, sandwiches, doughnuts, and cakes until the whole command had been satisfied.  And the crowds as they came, man by man, brought the mud, the slimy, slippery, slithery, sticky grey mud, and shed it all over the place.

They shed it down the counter aisle; they shed it under the tables, and on the chairs; they shed it all over the auditorium, when they packed the evening show or lounged there during daylight hours to listen to someone playing ragtime or playing Debussy or Schubert, as the case might be with equal ease.

Always some doughboy sat by the piano, always playing to a crowd, sometimes with the skill of a distinguished professional, sometimes just with the knack of rhythm.  Always the billiard-balls clicked, always the stoves glowed, always tobacco smoke bloomed through the air, and, except when some evening show was on whose success its noise would disturb, always the canteen ran full swing.

But never, month in and month out, the round of the clock, would Billy permit that any boy in France be asked not to track in mud.

Billy’s canteen contained, of course, the usual supplies of cake, chocolate, tobacco, matches, and all the odds and ends of the Post Exchange.  But Billy’s canteen contained, above all things, good and varied homelike food – as much and as varied as he could invent, forage, or by any means provide – dispensed with hearty friendship and kind laughter guided by a keen, sympathetic eye.  No one ever suspected Billy of a desire to “save a soul,” to drive a moral, or to hand out a tract.  Nobody ever heard Billy preach – except when the boys themselves asked for a Sunday service and Billy had to take the job. Then he did it and did it well.

But nobody ever saw Billy too tired or too busy to see and provide for the last lad’s need of body or mind, nobody ever saw him turn a lad empty away for lack of money to pay for his wants, and nobody ever saw him give, excepting only the recipient.  For no woman was ever more sensitive to the sensitive shrinking of a boy’s pride.  When Billy gave that which might have been paid for, he did it so quietly, camouflaged it so delicately, that the next in the line caught no hint of the act.

Nor was it necessary for a boy to speak of his needs and his empty pocket, for Billy, by some divine instinct of love, knew both without being told, and acted, even when sore-hearted resistance met his advance.

Two cages full of canary birds chirped at each end of his counter.  Big cups of hot soup, stout and savory, hot coffee, strong and good, hot chocolate, solid sandwiches of various kinds, pies, puddings, and doughnuts were always on hand, and drinks and larger articles for five cents (twenty-five centimes) apiece.  Piccalilli, made in the hut, and a salad of finely chopped cabbage well filled with dressing tasted like manna to boys fed up with “canned willy,” “gold-fish,” and beans.  And when Billy started a course dinner of excellent soup, beefsteak, fried potatoes and two other vegetables, salad, dessert, bread and butter, and coffee of chocolate, for two and a half francs, every soldier for miles around abandoned his mess, and, A.W.O.L. if need be, came to Billy’s for chow.

“Billy’s bug-juice” – a combination of lime-juice and fruit syrups – was known all over the A.E.F. when thirsty time set in.  Billy’s griddle-cakes spread comfort like a poultice where they softly fell.

And Billy’s hand in it all became a sort of trademark and surety of worth.

“We’ll all have soup,” said the spokesman of four hungry camion drivers, for the first time visiting the hut.

“Quatre soupes!” called the server at the counter to the cook behind the scene.

“We don’t want no cat soup!” indignantly protested the four and shot out of the room.

But the roar that followed them rose scarcely less at their folly in suspecting Billy’s provender than in joy at the helpless joke.

Without any manner of doubt, by the way, somewhere in France, America, or on the Rhine, those four camion-drivers, if they still live, to this very day are innocently imparting to horrified audiences their personal knowledge of the kind of soup that was served by “that damn Y.”

“Billy’s hut” was one of the dirtiest huts in France – because forever and always it was packed with dirty, hungry, needy boys.  But Billy’s kitchen had an oilclothed floor; and everything in it, including the floor, got scrubbed several times a day; and Billy’s pots and pans shone like the sun.  For, by hook or crook, he accumulated twelve French servants.

Also the Army gave him ten German prisoners, further to supplement his little staff of Y aides.  And those people worked.

“Come along into the kitchen,” he would say at the end of a cold, wet evening to a shivering lad whose flushed face and too bright eyes told a tale of trouble hovering near – or, “Come along into the kitchen,” to a boy with that in his look which bespoke to Billy’s instinct the need of a friend.

And once behind the door, in the homely scene of skillets and bowls and spice-boxes, warmth and cleanliness and pleasant smells, Billy would pull a chair before the range, open the oven door and say:

“There, settle down, son.  Put your feet inside and get ‘em hot.”

The servants and the prisoners would all have gone, by then.  Y people, knowing the game, busy on games of their own, would steer away.  And Billy, alone with his boy, would mix him a hot egg-nog, or feed him a plate of some extra dainty set aside for just such a chance, and gently extract the thorn from his soul.

Then he gave advice, gratefully received; gave medicine, thankfully taken; made a promise, faithfully to be kept; or leant money, almost always to be returned – as the case might be.  And, in the end, he sent away, or put to bed, a lad with a heart full of peace instead of misery, or with a body tided over a dangerous hour.

Almost every day he asked one or two boys to dine with him in his own little room behind the canteen.  Only one or two at a time, because – and this was his secret – he wanted them to feel themselves “company” – his personal guests, invited not from duty, but for his own pleasure, and so to give them a touch of home.  Then Billy would exert himself, with jokes and stories, and with extra tid-bits piled on heaping plates, to make those boys know that to him they were not Serial Number 537 and 1003, but his own particular, chosen friends.

“I want to be married,” a lad one night confessed.  “I suppose it couldn’t be here in the hut?  It’s the nicest place in France.”

Billy turned instantly grave.  He asked a question or two.  The girl, he happened to know, was right.

Finally he began his verdict.

“You could be married in the hut,” he said, slowly, “but on one condition only – one which you may not like.”

The boy’s face fell.

“That condition is,” Billy continued, “that you let us give you a real wedding – the whole – regular – full-blown thing.”

So they decorated the auditorium hut, had music and ushers, and a best man, and concluded the ceremony with a wedding breakfast and dancing for all the guests.  Billy himself gave away the bride.

As he walked up the aisle to the blare of the wedding march, Billy himself was the most radiant of all the party.  Invitations included the A.E.F. and though the function began at eight o’clock in the morning, all the A.E.F. that could get there took part in the entire proceedings with thrills of joy.

But Billy was radiant all of the time, as far as the A.E.F. could see.  No boy got ever a cold or unaffording word or glance from him, whatever the hour, whatever the press of work, whatever his fatigue.  And if he was not fatigued – dog-tired, more often than not – that was solely because his spirit eclipsed his earthly part.

He seemed not to know he was incarnate as along as a lad within his reach remained in want of word or deed.  In times of heavy stress, he worked through periods, as through Saturday to Monday, without sleep and without a bite to eat.  If the food of the hut was famous all over France, it was because Billy himself taught the French servants to cook, and himself brooded over the pot.  Many another Y man on his staff broke under the pace he set.  No one could last there who had a single desire beyond the service in hand – who was not ready to spend himself to-day as though to-morrow would never dawn.  Up in the morning while yet the night’s exhaustion hung heavy on his limbs, he would be over in the hut kitchen at six o’clock making biscuits and cinnamon buns by rafts, with his own hands, to cheer up his jaded boys with a snack of “something like home.”  And his constant preoccupation was the discovery of a possible new dish.

Birds of passage his boys often were, for Billy’s hut was indeed the roadhouse of the A. E. F.  But sometimes his birds flitted past again: As dispatch riders, stopping late to-night for a snatch of hot food, or late to-morrow night, white and drawn of face, coming again to his door.  Not a mouthful would they have tasted in the interval.  Not a mouthful could they then have got but for Billy’s ever-open hand.

They did not say much, those weary, road-worn, hungry lads that swarmed in Billy’s hut.  But they carried the fame of the Y at Neufchateau all over France.  And they filled its registers, kept as tracers of friend for friend, with tributes of boyish love and gratitude. Some entries expressed the thoughts of cultivated minds.  Some innocently mangled the tongue that served them.  But none, perhaps, more truly conveyed the kernel of the thing than did that simple outburst over the signature of a private of Marines:

“What in hell is Billy’s other name?”

Here's a photo of Billy Levere from his time in France:

Levere is on the right.  The other man is unidentified.

Another photo of him in uniform from the same period:

When the war ended in November of 1918, Billy Levere returned to Evanston where he threw himself into fraternity work even more than before.  For years, Levere's apartments in Evanston had served as the national headquarters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and when he came home he was more convinced than ever that SAE needed an official national headquarters building.  He also wanted it to serve as a national memorial for SAEs who died in the Great War.  At SAE's 1920 convention he was able to put his plan into action.  The convention voted to centralize the government and offices of SAE, fund the construction of a "Central Office Building," and create a fundraising program to cover the costs.

The 1920 US Census finds William Levere living at 703 Davis Street in Evanston.  This is around the corner from where he lived in 1900 - space occupied by the former Chandler's building today.  He listed his occupation as "Literary Work."

With the centralization of the Fraternity under way, Levere began to pursue his dream of an office building.  From the start, his plans included a library and a museum.  In 1923 SAE purchased an old home on Sheridan Road in Evanston.  The Fraternity finally had its office building and in the process became the first national fraternity to have a national headquarters building.  But Levere was already dreaming of the grand structure that would one day replace the existing office. Levere then declared that he would begin to collect for SAE's Library in earnest.  It turns out that Levere, as a passionate collector, had begun collecting material for years.  By the end of 1924 he had amassed a huge library of works written by SAEs.  It was reputed to be the second largest fraternity collection, behind the William Raymond Baird collection at the New York Public Library.

In December, 1926 Levere revealed the preliminary sketches of the Memorial Building that would replace the current office.  He asked a fellow SAE, architect Arthur Knox, to submit designs for the structure. The initial modest plans were revised to increase the size of the library, and include a museum, memorial chapel, lecture hall, dining hall, residence space, dormitory, and office space.  Levere's new memorial building took its first steps to completion that same month when the national convention voted to construct the building and created a non-profit corporation that would own the building and collect donations for construction and maintenance.

Levere's passion for his work, unwillingness to delegate tasks, and lack of recognizing his own limits finally caught up with him.

Said to be the Last Photo of William Levere

In January of 1927 he was admitted to Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston with a nervous breakdown, from which he never recovered. William Levere died on February 22, 1927.

Here is Levere's obituary from the Chicago Daily Tribune of February 23, 1927:

Here is his Death Notice from the Tribune of February 24th:

Billy Levere's wake was held at the SAE headquarters on Sheridan Road in Evanston:

Here is the elaborate monument covering his grave at Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie.  This photo was taken shortly after the monument was erected in 1927:

Here is the Levere monument in 2015:

The evergreens have grown quite a bit since 1927 - and the vases on each side of the center medallion are gone.

In Memoriam
William Collin Levere, Ill., Psi Omega '98
Born October 10, A. D. 1872, at New Haven, Conn.
Initiated Into Sigma Alpha Epsilon
At Northwestern University November 14, 1894
Eminent Supreme Archon of S. A. E., 1902-1906
Y. M. C. A. Secretary in France During World War, 1917-1918
Eminent Supreme Recorder and Editor of
S. A. E. Record, 1912-1927
Died at Evanston, Ill., February 22, A. D. 1927
Beloved and Mourned by the College Youth
Of Our Country, To Whose Advancement He
Devoted His Life, His Talents, and His Love

So now you know the story of William Collin “Billy” Levere.  He started his time at Northwestern being opposed to fraternities and all they stood for, and ended up becoming “Mr. Fraternity” as he dedicated his life to the past, present and future of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

He is fondly remembered even today by his SAE brothers, and they have posted a short video to You Tube about Billy Levere and his contributions to SAE:

We can't say goodbye to Billy Levere without discussing the Levere Memorial Temple.  As stated above, it was Levere's goal in the mid-1920s to collect the funds to enable the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity to construct a memorial building in honor of the SAE boys who died in World War I. 

After his sudden death in February of 1927, SAE found that Levere had left $25,000 for a new building.  This, coupled with the fact that Levere had spent his life dedicated to the fraternity, prompted the decision to name the Memorial Building after him, and so the Levere Memorial Temple was born.  It was announced by Al Chase in his real estate column in the Chicago Daily Tribune on January 28, 1928:


With the transfer of the southwest corner of Hinman avenue and Sheridan road, Evanston, by Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity yesterday to the Levere Memorial foundation, it was disclosed that a $200,000 white stone memorial building is to be erected in memory of “Billy” Levere, for many years national secretary of the fraternity.

Arthur Howell Knox, an alumnus of the Northwestern chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, has designed a gothic structure with tower, which will front on Sheridan road.  This will be on the site of the present national headquarters at 1856 Sheridan road, which, it is expected, will be torn down within a year to make way for the memorial.  It will contain a two story chapel, with stained glass memorial windows in the east wing, a library and museum on the first floor, and the national offices of the fraternity on the second floor of the west wing.

Known As “Smiling Billy.”

William C. Levere, popularly known in Evanston as “Billy,” who died a year ago, left a fund of $25,000 for a new building.  Since then it has been decided to make it a memorial for “Smiling Billy,” as he was called during his overseas service as “Y” secretary.  At that time he was decorated by the French government. 

Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity has 100 chapters and a national membership of approximately 35,000.  Lauren Foreman of Atlanta, Ga., is president, according to the Evanston Review.  Judge A. K. Nippert of Cincinnati is chairman of the building committee.

It was the “Roaring Twenties” and times were good.  It was a time of unparalleled prosperity, and donations came flooding in from SAE members and alumni nationwide.  By September 8, 1929, the Chicago Daily Tribune was able to report that construction had already begun with a projected dedication date of December, 1930:


Work is under way in Evanston on a $250,000 war memorial to the members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity who lost their lives in the civil, Spanish American, and the world war.  It is the design of architect Arthur Howell Knox, an alumnus of the Northwestern chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.  It is being erected at the southwest corner of Sheridan road and Hinman avenue, by the Levere Memorial Foundation, which grew from a $25,000 fund left by William C. Levere for a new building for the fraternity.

Mr. Levere, popularly known in Evanston as “Billy,” died two years ago.  He was known as “Smiling Billy” during his overseas service as “Y” secretary.  At that time he was decorated by the French government.  He had held all the offices of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, being national secretary when he died.

Mr. Knox has designed a Gothic structure, with tower, to be built of Wisconsin limestone on all sides.  The main entrance will be on Sheridan road.  The building will contain a memorial chapel with stained glass windows and a pipe organ, an art gallery, a fraternity museum, and a library.  The building also will contain the national headquarters and offices of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

It is planned to dedicate the new structure in December, 1930, when the biennial national convention of the fraternity is held in Evanston.  The last convention was in December, 1928, at Miami, Fla.

When the memorial was first conceived in 1926, it was said to cost $200,000.  By the time construction had started in 1929 the cost was up to $250,000.  The Chicago Daily Tribune of December 29, 1930, reported the dedication of the $400,000 Levere Memorial Temple, twice the original figure:


Dedication of the $400,000 Levere Memorial Temple of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity took place yesterday in conjunction with the biennial convention of the fraternity now in session in Evanston.  Only the 650 delegates to the convention attended the ritualistic ceremony of the dedication, but later a public reception was held at the temple.  Gen. William G. Everson, chief of the United States Militia Bureau at Washington, was the principal speaker.  The temple is a memorial to the late William Levere, who for 27 years was secretary of the national fraternity.  It is located at 1856 Sheridan road, Evanston.

The Levere Memorial Temple, Evanston, Illinois

As you can see, it is an imposing building from the outside, but the thousands who pass by it every day have no idea of the beauty and splendor within.  I could do a whole writeup on just the Levere Memorial Temple itself, and some have, but I'll just touch on a few high points.

The Grand Foyer contains stained glass windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany donated by Billy Levere's brother Frederick.  The two side windows depict scenes from the life of Billy Levere:

and the middle window is the Good Samaritan:

The temple also contains a museum filled with artifacts of the fraternity from the earliest days to today:

and in the basement - the Panhellenic Room:

The entire room took 3 years to paint with murals and the coat-of-arms of 60 Greek organizations in order of their founding dates,

The Tower Room, where admission is limited to members of SAE:

But my favorite part of the temple is the magnificent chapel:

All around the chapel are Tiffany windows depicting the history of North America.  But the jewel in the crown of the chapel is the magnificent "Pax Vobiscum" window depicting Christ reaching out to a Union and a Conferderate soldier:

"Pax Vobiscum"

The Levere Memorial Temple is open to the public, so if you can get to Evanston, by all means take a tour.  If you can't get there in person, you can take a tour through YouTube:

and you will get to see the striking painting of Billy Levere watching over all who enter his temple:

William Collin Levere, who probably did more to advance the college fraternity system than any other man who ever lived, fondly remembered today by his brothers and fellow Evanstonians - may he rest in peace.