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.

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