Friday, February 27, 2015

WHATEVER BECAME OF Anders E. Anderson - Part II

Last week we took a look at the life and times of Anders E. Anderson who came to the U.S. from Sweden in 1889 and within a short time made a name for himself in Chicago real estate.  I also reported that in the mid 1910s Anderson decided to branch out into the cemetery business, becoming president of Oak Ridge Cemetery in suburban Hillside, Illinois. 

Anders E. Anderson, being a real estate man, was always looking for ways to maximize the return on his investments.  A cemetery provides good long term cash flow, but once a plot of land has been sold, that's it. Although some have tried it, it is illegal to sell the same grave twice. Anderson decided to expand Oak Ridge Cemetery by building a community mausoleum - thereby being able to sell the same plot of land numerous times.

The Chicago Daily Tribune carried a mention on February 24, 1917:

The Chicago Title and Trust Company is trustee in a loan of $300,000.00, 8 years, at 6% to Oak Ridge Cemetery, Anders E. Anderson, president.

Anderson needed to look no further then the cemetery adjacent to Oak Ridge to see a successful community mausoleum.  Glen Oak Cemetery had built a community mausoleum in the early 1920s:

The Glen Oak Mausoleum
Photo courtesy

But Anderson liked to do things on a grand scale.  The Glen Oak Mausoleum was fine, but Anderson wanted "his" mausoleum to outshine them all.  In 1924 Anderson took a trip to Europe to study the great mausoleums of the old world.  Then he hired the architectural film of Dyer & Nadherny to design the mausoleum he named "Oakridge Abbey."

Here is Anderson's passport photo for his trip to Europe in 1924:

Anders E. Anderson - circa 1924

Here's a photo of the Oakridge Abbey under construction:

The Oakridge Abbey mausoleum was complete and dedicated on June 10, 1928.  Anderson hired the famous Chicago minister Dr. Preston Bradley to deliver the dedication address.  Here is an announcement of the dedication from the Chicago Daily Tribune of June 10, 1928:

From one of the advertisements:

To lovers of beauty, Oakridge Abbey will ever be a delight. It is a symphony in sacred architecture. The pure, classic design of the Abbey which is built of imperishable Georgia crystalline marble, presents a picture of wonderous charm.  Both exterior and interior of the Abbey are of this matchless marble.  

Here are some other advertisements for the Abbey from the same time period:

One thing about the Abbey that differentiated it from other community mausoleums was that a crematorium was built right into the mausoleum. No other community mausoleum in Chicagoland could make this claim.

Another quote from an advertisement:

It means that those, whose memories you cherish will have reverent care throughout all time, their final resting place secure against the possibility of desecration.

Well...not quite.  

You will remember that Anderson had originally borrowed $300,000.00 back in 1917 to fund the construction of the mausoleum.  By the time the loan had matured in 1925, Anderson realized that $300,000.00 would not be enough to cover all the expenses for a mausoleum the way he envisioned it.  In 1928 $385,000.00 of bonds were issued and purchased by the National Life Insurance Company, but even that increased amount was not enough.  In 1929 Anderson realized that the payment of interest due on the bonds would not be able to be made, so he approached National Life directly for more funds.  National Life increased their investment to over $500,000.00, retired the bonds and instead obtained a first mortgage on the mausoleum and 184,000 square feet of land in the Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Sales of crypts and niches in the Abbey were brisk at first, but competition was fierce.  Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago had increased the size of their community mausoleum several times, and in 1927 Street Lightfoot opened his magnificent mausoleum in Chicago's Acacia Park Cemetery which catered exclusively to Masons and their families.

Although marketed to the masses, mausoleum internment appeals mostly to people with money. Anders E. Anderson opened his mausoleum during the boom times of the 1920s, but the fact is that the stock market crash in 1929 severely cut into his customer base.

The world fell apart for Anders E. Anderson in 1930.    

The census taker showed up at Anders E. Anderson's house on May 2, 1930.  He was living at 40 East Oak Street in Chicago:

40 East Oak Street, Chicago

Anderson told the census taker that he was divorced and paying $130.00 per month for his apartment.  His occupation was "Mausoleum President," but not for long.  His marriage had failed, and now he was going to lose his job.  

The following notice appeared in the Chicago Daily Tribune from April 5, 1930:

Bankruptcy notwithstanding, National Life foreclosed their lien and took possession of Oak Ridge Cemetery and the Oak Ridge Abbey Mausoleum, brain-child of Anders E. Anderson, as reported in the Chicago Daily Tribune from October 19, 1933:

I was a mortgage banker for an insurance company (not National Life) for twenty-five years and I can assure you that the first thing National Life did when they took title to the cemetery and mausoleum was to fire the current management.  Anders E. Anderson was out of a job.

The 1930s were not good years for Anders E. Anderson.  He basically fell off the face of the earth - no mentions in any of the newspapers.  He was divorced and unemployed.  But then again the 1930s were hard years for may people - at a time when the US unemployment rate was 25%.  

I was able to trace Ida Kohner Anderson up to the 1940 Census - she disappears after that.

I do know that Anders and Ida's daughter Jane married Paul William Pheneger (1912-1980) in the 1930s.  The Phenegers ultimately retired to San Diego, California.  Paul Pheneger died in 1980; Jane Anderson Pheneger died in San Diego on March 12, 2001.

But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Anders E. Andersen did reappear - on Valentine's Day 1940 when he got married - for the third time!

On February 14, 1940 Anders E. Andersen, age 64 (he was really 71) married 48 year old Mrs. Pearl Glessner (she was really 56) at the Cook County Building in downtown Chicago:

Anders E. Anderson definitely married "up" this time.  The 1940 US Census finds the newlyweds living at 1200 N. Lake Shore Drive in Chicago:

1200 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

Anders E. Anderson told the census taker that his occupation was "Salesman" of "Private Deals."

Anders E. Anderson died November 5, 1960 in Chicago.  Here's his death notice from the Chicago Tribune:

When he died, Anders and Pearl were living at 253 E. Delaware in Chicago:

253 East Delaware, Chicago
Here's the death record for Anders E. Anderson:

According to his death records, Anderson was interred at Oakridge. So, last Saturday I returned to Oakridge-Glen Oak Cemetery to get the location of Anderson's grave.

Unlike Rosehill Cemetery, Oakridge-Glen Oak is still privately owned, and also unlike Rosehill they are more than happy to look up a burial location - for free.  First they checked the computer - no record for Anders E. Anderson who died in 1960.  Was I sure of the date of death? Yes.  They said that perhaps Anderson had been cremated at Oakridge but interred somewhere else.  Or, they suggested that his ashes could have been scattered and there was no grave for him at all. I explained to the office staff who Anders E. Anderson was.  Like most cemeteries I have researched, they knew nothing of the cemetery's history - nor, frankly did they care.  However, they agreed to check the card file to see if the could find a record for Anders E. Anderson - no luck.  They said there was one more place to look and they went to another file of hand written cards but nothing.  Oakridge Glen-Oak Cemetery had no interment records for Anders E. Anderson, despite what his death record said.

This really is not all that unusual - graves are moved; remains are relocated.  But this just didn't "feel right" to me.  Deep down I had a feeling that Anders E. Anderson was interred in the Oakridge Abbey mausoleum he conceived and built.  So, I went over to the Abbey and did the mausoleum equivalent of "mowing the rows."  And guess who I found in Corridor 4, Section 58:

and next to him, his third (and last) wife Pearl:

Interesting that they have Anders' year of birth as 1865.  His death records said 1870 and we know that it was actually January 11, 1869. Also interesting that Pearl lived to be 98 years old.

So, as a tribute to Anders E. Anderson, who conceived and built the Oakridge Abbey Mausoleum, let's take a look around: 


Stained Glass Ceiling of Chapel

Family Rooms Lining the Chapel

The Bronze Front Doors from the Inside

Typical Family Section of Crypts

Hallway with Family Rooms on Either Side

Staircase with Stained Glass

Another Hallway Lined with Crypts
Another Hallway - Columbaria on the Left
Typical Stained Glass

Entrance to the Crematorium - Not in Use the Day I Visited

I thought about going back into the offce and giving them the location of Anders E. Anderson's crypt but in the end I did not.  Frankly they could not have cared less about the man who used to run the cemetery and who conceived and built that magnificent mausoleum.  At least the plaque inside the front door of the mausoleum is still there:

Anders E. Anderson led an interesting life.  Like so may people his life was made up of successes and failures - both professional and personal.  But in the end he created a beautiful structure that remains today for us to enjoy and appreciate.  He was resting quietly in the monument he created - virtually forgotten today.  I am glad that I am able to tell his story and give him the recognition he deserves.

If you want to see Anders E. Anderson's real monument, go out to the Oakridge Abbey Mausoleum and take a look around.

Anders E. Anderson - may he rest in peace.

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