Axel Lonnquist

Does MPHS have photographs: Yes

Address in Mount Prospect: August 16, 1881

Birth Date: May, 1968

Death Date:

Marriage
Date:

Spouse: Alice Lonnquist

Children: William and Audrey

Interesting information on life, career, accomplishments:

One of the most influential developers in the history of Mount Prospect was Axel Lonnquist. Although he certainly was not the first developer in the history of the community, nor the largest, he was cutting edge for his time. He helped to redefine the village of Mount Prospect, development of the northwest communities and in a small way, suburbs nationally. A large degree of what is interesting about Lonnquist is that he was a progressive, forward thinking person in a time of transition. There were many changes going on both in Mount Prospect and in the nation at this time.

When Axel came to Mount Prospect, cities were beginning to be seen as threatening, there was a history of the glorification of nature, the role of domesticity was clearly defined, and the idea of the home as refuge is strongly rooted in the minds of Americans. This tied to the amazing investment in transportation and the technological advances that made it possible for any family to build a home, made it the right time and the right place for a person like Axel Lonnquist. So lets look a little closer at Axel.

Axel was born on August 16th 1881 in Stockholm Sweden. In 1894, at the age of 13, he immigrated to America. Although it is hard to trace him in some places, he clearly had a very colorful life. It appears that he traveled quite extensively. He married his wife Alice in 1903, who was from Saint Louis. Their children, Audrey Alice and William John were born in 1904 and 1905 respectively, and were both born in Toronto, Canada. In 1911 he became a naturalized citizen in Spokane, Washington. In 1914 he has an address in Los Angeles, while by 1916 he is listed in Detroit. The early 1920s listed him as living in Evanston, although before his death in 1968 he had also lived in Willmette, Madison, and back in Stockholm for a short time. This is quite an assortment of addresses, especially considering the time period. His professional career is almost as mobile. He developed large sub-divisions in Franklin Park, Chicago, Michiana Shores and of course Mount Prospect. All of these towns, except Chicago, now have streets named for him. In the 1920’s he was a director of the Chicago Regional Planning Association and a member of the Civic Development committee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He was the 1930 republican candidate for the president of Cook County Board and later in life was a long time director of the First National Bank of Willmette. So he was clearly an influential person in the northwest suburbs.

What he did in Mount Prospect is similar to his developments in other areas and is very much in keeping with the progress of suburbanization and the time period in which he lived. As mentioned before, he purchased the farms of Fred Schaefer and Henry Menshing in 1925. His plan for the area was in keeping with the history of suburban developments and was different from earlier sub-developments in Mount Prospect. What he planned was “a luxury community.” He planned to utilize both the natural Beauty of the area and the modern ideas of suburbs for this sub-development. In his advertisements, he heralded the semi-rural landscape with the proximity to the scenic Weller Creek, safe from the hectic pace of the city, while he also advertised he numerous trains in and out of the city for the working professionals. This was meant to be a push and a pull with the ideas of getting away from the pace, and corruption of the city, and getting to the bliss of the quite country home. This is sub-development drew together all of the modern ideas of suburbanization that had been forming over the years and put it in the reach of the middle classes in Chicago. He specified the lots in the sub-development were to be larger and be able to support both a comfortable home and good-sized yard. The crowning glory of this development however, was to be the Northwest Hills Country Club. His idea was that membership in this would be associated with owing a lot in his development. He opened the Country Club in 1926, although it was then only a nine-hole course. He later expanded it to an 18 hole course and in 1929 opened the Club House.

As a progressive developer he thought beyond his own sub-division. He spoke publicly, at both national and local events about the responsibility of developers to think in terms of the larger community. He wanted to work with the other developers in the community to coordinate efforts at improving the village and the services offered to residents. This sub-development and the ideas of the luxury suburbs with country clubs and coordinated services redefined the way Mount Prospect saw its self and the way it was seen by outsiders. This was probably the way in which Lonnquist was most influential in the community. He made people think of the suburbs as better than living in the city as the trains and services would offer all the resources and comforts of the city while also allowing a relaxed area with access to nature and luxury leisure pastimes.

Although Axel Lonnquist was able to redefine Mount Prospect, similar to the village’s first developer, he was not able to make a lot of money on the endeavor. Due to the timing of his investment, he was not able to sell most of his land before the crash of 1929 and the depression that followed. The great depression was not the best time to be selling luxury suburban lots and he sold his property in Mount Prospect at huge discounts in 1931 to cover debt. In the time that he owned the land, he had been able to plat the streets, build the country club and a few demonstration homes, but he built very few homes that are standing today. He continued to hold onto some land in the community until 1946, when he left the land in trust to his children.

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