Hendriksens played key role in evolution of Arlington Hts.

 
Posted9/15/2015 3:16 PM

People used to say about Arlington Heights that where it wasn't orchard, it was truck garden. Then a couple came to town and helped project different image of the village, creating the Arlington Heights as we know today.

In 1945, Florence and Clarence Hendriksen were young, ambitious and energetic. Clarence was recently mustered out of the army, where he had served as an interpreter during World War II.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Florence told me they chose to live in Arlington Heights, a small village of 5,700 people at that time, because it was "a German community, neat and clean, with avenues of trees."

They told the real estate agent, who sold them a brick house at 305 N. Haddow for $13,500, that they were going to start a business.

"What kind of a business?" the agent asked.

"We don't know," they answered.

Someone asked them if they were paying too much for the house. "No," Clarence answered. "The assessor says it is the best value between Chicago and Barrington."

A week after they moved into their new house, the former owner came back and asked if she could get something out of the kitchen. "Of course," Florence said. The previous owner opened a drawer and pulled out a bag of money from behind it. Then she also took the door chimes and left. The real estate agent, Harold Wilson, was furious.

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"She can't do that," he said. "The chimes were attached to the house." The Hendriksens, not yet in business, were learning about business. Then Florence had a phone call from Wilson, "How would you like to buy my business? I'm moving to Florida. Not the building at Evergreen and Northwest Highway. Just the business, for $5,000."

Clarence agreed it was a good deal and they gave Wilson a check for $5,000. Wilson came round a week later, tore up the check in front of them, and asked for $10,000. Clarence agreed. Looking back later, they told me that at that time houses were "selling like hot cakes." Every Sunday morning, people were lined up. In three months, they had more than made up for what they had paid for the business

What I like about the story, of course, is what a nexus of opportunity Arlington Heights was in its growth years. Clarence must have taken on the bulk of the real estate business because Florence took on more and more of a public role in the town. She was part of the flowering of the village into its mature form. She joined social groups like the Arlington Heights Women's Club and in time she was elected president of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library board.

On the board, she showed her strength and vision. When most everyone was in favor of adding on to the small library by Recreation Park, Florence held out for years for her vision of a major library at Dunton and Euclid. When she finally won out -- got the votes she needed -- she upped the village image from a village surrounded by truck gardens, or a village known for its racetrack, to a town with a major cultural institution with wide influence.