Boldenweck Mausoleum

Boldenweck Mausoelum

William Boldenweck
9 August 1851 – 21 August 1922
Adelheid Gesine Samme Boldenweck
4 July 1852 – 17 Augugust 1912

Boldenweck Mausoleum interior
William and Adelheid Boldenweck

William Boldenweck was president of the Chicago Sanitary Board during the building of the Chicago Drainage Canal — the construction of which famously reversed the course of the Chicago River.

He married Chicago-born Adelheid Samme in 1873, and together they had three children who tragically all died in infancy. Adelheid’s father had been a lake captain, and though I can’t be sure of this conclusion, it appears he and wife Charlotte only had one other child — a son named Berend who died the year before Adelheid was born.

Adelheid’s parents both died in the 1880s, and they and the lost infants must all have been originally interred elsewhere as the mausoleum was not erected until 1911 at which point all were moved to the mausoleum, including Berend.

On the 1880 census, the Boldenweck household consisted of the couple and Adelheid’s parents; on the 1900 census, the couple were living with a servant, a young woman who was still in their employ 10 years later and to whom Adelheid left a very generous bequest in her will when she died two years later.

William also suffered from health issues and had retired at around the same time as Adelheid’s death following a scandal where a large amount of cash was stolen from the treasury he was in charge of. A trial appears of have cleared the teller accused of the theft, but William did not come out of that looking competent, and it’s likely the combination of that and his wife’s death led him to leave the country. In 1922, he died of heart disease in Hamburg, Germany, and the announcement which ran in the New York Times about this included one of the shadiest paragraphs I’ve ever read:

“…while in office $173,000 was stolen from the treasury. He retired afterward and the mystery of the theft was never solved. An act of Congress relieved Boldenweck of responsibility for the loss.” — NYT, 24 August 1922, p15.

The bas-relief sculpture of William and Adelheid is lovely, and I think it speaks to their affection for one another. He may have been a bad boss but I hope he was a good husband.

RIP Boldenwecks

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