Flashy Developer Helped Small Town Thrive

Article excerpt

The evening of the day in 1954 when we moved into a modest Virginia Terrace ranch on Oakton Street, the woman baby-sitting across the street took it upon herself to cross Oakton and comment in what seemed a pointed manner:

"I suppose you'll soon be moving on to Scarsdale."

She had hardly said "Hello."

I was nonplused. To me, Scarsdale was in New York and vaguely connected to horse racing.

What I didn't know was the local story. A flashy developer named Bert Laudermilk had turned a Klehm tree farm into a subdivision by that name. I was to later learn what an important role Bert Laudermilk served in defining the genius loci of our town.

Before he looked at a tree farm and "saw" a subdivision based on a charming English village, Arlington Heights was a town of two cultures -- different, but both fairly conservative.

There were the first town folk who hailed from New England and upstate New York. Then there was the second wave, Germans fleeing conscription in their homeland. The Germans were more careful of their pennies. Our neighbor Al Volz used to complain that when he was mayor he could never get any legislation passed because of "those tightfisted German farmers."

With his dashing mustache and flashy convertible, Laudermilk was new blood. His imagination fired up, he brought new people into town.

He put ads in Chicago newspapers for the exciting houses he was selling. He organized excursion trains to bring crowds out on Sunday afternoons to look at Stonegate, his stab at a Cotswold village on the prairie. …