Sunday, March 4, 2012

Stories in Stone--Drechsler Building in Oak Park, Illinois

Sandwiched in between various much newer or newly refurbished buildings on Lake Street in Oak Park, Illinois is the Drechsler Building built in 1898. I was able to find some information regarding the building on two other websites along with brief biographies the occupants when it was constructed.  Although the number currently is 1112 Lake Street, it was 1116 Lake Street back in the 1920's and may have even been 135 Lake in 1910.  Numbers changed as additional buildings were added along the main business street of Oak Park. 

Oak Park resident, Frank Lloyd Wright, definately did not draw up the blueprint for this structure ;-).  Information found on the net on page 23 at, ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY Downtown Oak Park and The Avenue Business District Oak Park, Historic Preservation Commission, Conducted in 1975, Updated 1981 and 2005, lists the architect as E.E. Roberts and the style as Queen Anne.  Charles Drechsler is listed as the first owner.

"The building is 4 stories and is 23’ x 142’. The walls and foundation dates to a 1933 remodel. There was a building restoration in 1970 by Fred Burghardt. Minor alterations to the storefront occurred in 1975. There is a copper bay at the third floor level. Metal cornice and brackets with imposing brick parapet and coping. Bedford limestone trim. Exterior restoration underway in 2005."  

Charles Frederick Drechsler, son of William Henry Drechsler and Anna Heitmann, was born on April 9, 1872 in Leyden Township, Cook County, Illinois. Leyden Township comprises an area northwest of Oak Park.  I have also seen Charles' mother listed as Wilhelmina Hectmann; however the maiden name could be a transcription error.

Charles married Sophia P. Sievert on July 10, 1895 in St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Harlem, Cook County, Illinois.  At this time, Harlem was located in what is today called Forest Park.  Charles was already a resident of Oak Park at the time of his marriage.  Sophia, also known as Sophy, was born in 1875, the daughter of John and Carolyn Sievert, pioneer settlers of the area now known as River Forest, Illinois. 

Charles was already self employed as an undertaker and embalmer working in Oak Park.  The Drechsler's had two sons who are enumerated on the 1900 Illinois Census, Ralph, born October 1896 and Irwin, born January 1900.  Both boys must have died between 1900 and 1910.  A third son, Earl August Martin Drechsler was born on November 12, 1905, probably in Oak Park, Cook County, Illinois. 

I was able to find a brief biography of both Charles and Sophy on line at A Partial History of Forest Home and German Waldheim Cemeteries;

"Sophy Drechsler was the daughter of John and Carolyn Sievert, one of the first families to settle in what is now River Forest. As she was growing up, the area was so sparsely settled that she was the only one in her graduating class at Harlem School. In 1895 she married Charles Drechsler, a young man determined to succeed in business.

At an early age, Drechsler had left his family's farm in Leyden Township and trained with J. W. Senne, an early undertaker in Forest Park and Oak Park. When he was only twenty-two years old, Drechsler bought out Senne and continued to operate the under taking and ambulance services. In addition, he managed a wide range of business ventures that included repairing and upholstering furniture, renting fireproof storage space, moving furniture, and eventually, selling Franklin automobiles.

In 1898, Drechsler commissioned the noted architect E. E. Roberts to design a four-story brick building, which still stands in Oak Park at 1116 Lake Street, just west of Marion Street. The building housed and advertised all his various business ventures, as shown in the drawing here After his death, Sophy Drechsler kept the funeral home operating and served as its bookkeeper until her son Earl completed school. She remained active in the family business until her own death."

The Charles Drechsler Family lived above the business at 1116 Lake Street for several decades.  By 1910, Charles' younger brother, William Henry Drechsler, had joined the embalming business.  I noticed that Charles F. Drechsler was the undertaker for both of his parents. 

Find A Grave photograph
Scott Lewis
Charles Frederick Drechsler died on February 15  1925 at the age of fifty-two.  Sophy died in 1953.  Both are buried in Forest Home Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois.

William H. Drechsler continued the business until Charles and Sophy's son, Earl A. Drechsler, graduated from University of Michigan and then he took over the business.

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