Note: Many sources list Victor's middle name as "Calandrie." without the first "r." When he registered for the draft in 1917 he listed his name as "Victor C. Carlson" but when he registered in 1942 he listed his full name as "Victor Carlandrie Carlson," with the first "r" included.
About 1905, Victor C. Carlson went out on his own, going into partnership with Oscar L. Swanstrom. They called their company "Carlson and Swanstrom." Unfortunately things did not go too well for the new partners. In late 1906 Carlson and Swanstrom declared bankruptcy. When the bankruptcy was discharged on June 14, 1907 they listed Liabilities of $2,000.00, but Assets of only $329.00.
The 1910 US census is the last one where Victor would be living with his parents. The Carlsons were living at 1542 W. Estes in Chicago. John Carlson lists his occupation as a contractor/mason, as does twenty-two year old Victor.
Here's a photo of young Victor Carlson from his grandparents' fifty-second wedding anniversary party in 1910:
|Victor C. Carlson - 1910|
Little by little Victor C. Carlson rebuilt his reputation and his credit rating. The Chicago Daily Tribune of Feb 1, 1914 reported that Victor had purchased a property on the SWC of N. Ashland & North Shore in Chicago. The lot was 60’ x 125’ and was subject to an encumbrance (mortgage) of $1,710.00.
As Victor Carlson rebuilt his business, his family grew as well. As was the case in those days, children started joining the family at a rapid pace: Charlotte Virginia (1911-1977), Victor John (1912-1999), Robert Francis (1914-1999), and Bernice Roberta (1916-1999), so when Victor Carlson registered for the draft in 1917 he could honestly say that he was supporting his wife and four children. The Victor Carlsons were living at 6656 North Ashland in Chicago when Victor registered on June 5, 1917.
|6656 N. Ashland, Chicago|
Victor said he was a self-employed contractor and his place of business was at 6801 N. Clark Street in Chicago. There is a furniture store in that spot today.
|1601 W. Montrose, Chicago|
Carlson closed on the purchase of the lot and began construction in November of 1917. There were forty-five apartments and six stores, and the construction cost was estimated at $100,000.00.
The 1920 US Census found the Carlson family living at 6645 N. Greenview in Chicago:
|6645 N. Greenview, Chicago|
Victor listed his occupation as "Builder in the Contracting Business." Charlotte was born in Sweden and came to the US in 1891 when she was just four years old.
As the boom times of the 1920s began, Victor Carlson's fortunes increased as well. The Tribune reported in February of 1921 that Carlson had sold an 18-flat he owned at the NWC of N. Greenview Avenue and W. Greenleaf Street for $95,000.00
|NWC Greenview & Greenleaf, Chicago|
Later in 1921, Victor Carlson moved his family back to the city of his birth, Evanston, Illinois, by purchasing the beautiful home at 2219 Orrington Avenue:
|2219 Orrington, Evanston|
Carlson had truly come home again, and this time he would leave his mark on Evanston.
In May of 1921, now calling himself "The Victor C. Carlson Company," he contracted to build a 3-story and basement college building for the Chicago Engineering Works.
|Lawrence & Leavitt, Chicago|
|The Library Plaza Hotel, Evanston|
|The Orrington Hotel, Evanston|
The Roaring Twenties were certainly roaring for Victor C. Carlson.
But he made a mistake taking the City of Evanston for granted. As reported in the following article from the Chicago Daily Tribune of June 21, 1925, the Evanston City Council cut Carlson's fifteen story tower to ten stories, and the top three floors could only be used for tanks, a gymnasium, etc. The Tribune called it "Evanston's Dehorned Skyscraper:"
Before we resume the story of Victor Carlson's real estate empire, let's take a look at the Carlson Building which still graces downtown Evanston today, 90 years after it was built:
|Carlson Building, Evanston|
The name at the top "CARLSON BUILDING" used to light up in neon, but not anymore:
Take a look at the architectural details Carlson built into his buildings:
Look at the elevator doors - works of art in themselves:
The lobby directory:
The lobby mailbox:
An interesting side note. The two elevators in the Carlson Building were run by two sisters well into the 1980s - long after everyone else had gone to self-starting elevators. The two elevator operators knew all of the doctors and dentists, and greeted each by name every time they got into one of their elevators. After the sisters retired, the then-owners decided to install self-starting elevators. It was truly the end of an era in Evanston.
Not all of the vintage fixtures at the Carlson Building, however, are being well-maintained:
Here's a photo that includes the 1928 addition:
The downtown Evanston properties were not the only ones that Victor Carlson was building in the 1920s. Here are a few of his other projects as reported by the local press:
1925 NEC Central & Prairie, Evanston;
1928 Carlson Building Addition,
|1412 Washington Street, Evanston|
|1216 Main Street, Evanston|
|617 Grove Street, Evanston|