Friday, October 5, 2012


Many people dream about starting over.  Often when they look at where life has brought them, they wish they could begin anew - in a different place, and even with a different spouse.  This is the story of someone who did just that, but took it a step further - he even changed his name!

Ward Daniel Hansen was born March 26, 1892 in Evanston, Illinois to 25 year old John M. Hansen and his 22 year old wife Sadie (nee Janneson).  John Hansen was a carpenter and both John and Sadie had been born in Wisconsin - John in Scandanavia, and Sadie in Ogdensberg.  

Ward was the second child born to the Hansens - he joined his brother Bly B. Hansen who was born in 1890.  The 1892 Evanston City Directory shows that the Hansens lived at 156 Asbury Avenue.  156 Asbury is now the site of an apartment building built in the 1960s.

By 1900 The Hansens had moved to 43 N. Pine Street in Chicago.  

43 N. Pine Street, Chicago

The 1910 Census showed that the Hansens had moved again - this time to 6315 N. Hermitage in Chicago.  6315 N. Hermitage was a single family home in 1910 - today there is an apartment building on the spot.

On October 7, 1916, twenty-three year old Ward Hansen was married to eighteen year old Theresa Berg by Rev. Clarence Haugen, a "Minister of the Gospel" in Chicago, Illinois.  On June 2, 1917 Ward Hansen registered for the draft.   He listed his address as 6315 N. Hermitage - the newlyweds must have moved in with Ward's parents. Interestingly he listed his occupation as "Farmer" and said that he worked in Crandon, Wisconsin.

By the 1920 Census 28 year old Ward Hansen listed his address as 3833 N. Southport, 

3833 N. Southport, Chicago

but he appears to be living alone.  There is no wife or children listed for Ward, although he did tell the census taker that he was married.  He gave his occupation as "Carpenter" and the industry as "Outside Work".  

Ward must have gotten back with his wife Theresa at some point because their son, Richard Warren Hansen was born September 30, 1922 and their daughter Shirley was born April 8, 1926.

It is about this time that Ward Hansen decided to take part in the building boom of the 1920s - especially the housing boom in South Evanston.  

In 1923 the Chicago Rapid Transit Company announced that it would be constructing an extension of its  service from the Howard Street Terminal to downtown Skokie (or Niles Center as it was known then). In the Evanston News Index article that announced the start of construction (April 18th, 1924) they noted, “The route of the new railroad is an almost straight line about midway between Howard and Oakton streets”.  This extension was projected to cost $3,000,000 and would in fact be below grade throughout most of Evanston, as a condition of the permission of the Evanston City Council. The plan was to have stations at Ridge, Asbury, and Dodge in Evanston and ornamental concrete bridges would span the railroad right-of-way at Clark, Custer, Ridge and Asbury Avenues, while at Dodge Avenue the railroad would be elevated, the roadway running through beneath it.  The aim they announced was to “avoid grade crossings as much as possible”.

Construction started the first week of May, 1924 after a blue ribbon “first shovel” ceremony at Ridge Avenue and Case Street.  Attendees included Evanston Mayor Harry B. Parsons, Mayor John E. Brown of Niles Center, and R. Floyd Clinch of the Chicago Rapid Transit Company.  Local newspapers noted that “Extension Sets Off a Boom In South Evanston” (Evanston News Index April 22, 1924) and further mentioned that “At the southern extremity of Ridge Avenue, Howard Street and Asbury Avenue (there are) more than a dozen real estate offices, some with banners placed at intervals…(that) blaze forth the possibilities that lie before those who buy now”.  “In anticipation of the development of better transportation facilities for Southern Evanston, many new homes with spacious lawns have been erected in the last year (1923) east and west of Ridge Avenue in the south.  Applications for the erection of sewer and water connection in that section of the city are coming in at a rapid rate.” And finally “Howard District ten years ago was a prairie of waving flowers – today it is throbbing with business.”  In fact, a full page ad taken out by Krenn & Dato – Exclusive Agents for Mrs. Rockefeller-McCormick Properties went so far as to say “You can get rich here”.

Three new elevated stations were built in South Evanston with the completion of the new Niles Center elevated extension.  As mentioned above, they were built at Ridge, Asbury and Dodge Avenues.  “The stations will be the last word in architectural beauty and stability”, officials of the railroad announced, and a staff of architects headed by Arthur U. Gerber was hired to design the stations and also the bridges over the depressed tracks.  Every aspect of this project was to be “first-class”.  The railroad announced that “the bridges will also be architecturally beautiful as well as strong enough to handle the rapidly increasing traffic of the North Shore.  The bridges will be of concrete, with concrete paneled railings, sidewalks on either side of the street and street lamps along the walks.”  Even the right-of-way was to be improved with fences, hedges and grass banks so as to constitute an asset to the neighborhood and present a pleasing appearance both from the train windows and from the street above.

In fact, as had been predicted, there was a direct correlation between the increased settlements and increased property values near the new rail line.  Samuel Insull, chairman of the board of the Chicago Rapid Transit Company and of the gas and electric light companies said in late 1924 that “when the right-of-way was acquired land in that vicinity was about $1,000 an acre; when definite announcement of the line was made the price doubled; when construction began there were transfers at $6,000 and $7,000 an acre.” And in November of 1924 a sale of 15 acres along the extension route in Evanston went for the unheard of sum of $8,000 per acre.  Furthermore, D.H. Howard, the engineer in charge of constructing the new lines announced in early 1925 that he planned to take up permanent residence in Evanston – at 142 Ridge Avenue.  He stated that “he had considerable trouble in the past in finding suitable living quarters for his family in Chicago, and was happy to have found in Evanston a place where he could live comfortably”.  

After people like D.H. Howard announced that he would move his family to South Evanston, Ward Hansen decided this was too good of an opportunity to pass up. After all "you can get rich here."  In 1926 he bought a plot of land bounded on the north by Mulford Street, on the south by the alley between Mulford and Harvard Terrace, on the east by Barton Place and on the west by the alley behind the old Didier farm house and barn (built 1883). 

Ward Hansen's Plot of Land in Yellow
No sooner was his purchase closed than he announced his intention to build a total of four de-luxe single family homes with detached garages on the site.  Construction started on two homes in 1927; 

1204 Mulford

1208 Mulford

as soon as those were completed and sold he started construction on one more.  

1210 Mulford

In fact, he liked the house at 1210 Mulford so much he kept it for himself and moved his family into in in 1929.  By 1931, however he had sold the house at 1210 Mulford to build his finest ever: 1200 Mulford, on the southwest corner lot at Mulford and Barton.  

1200 Mulford

Upon completion he moved his family into 1200, but the family's stay there was short-lived.  Maybe he needed the money or maybe it was just time to move on, but by 1933 he had sold 1200 Mulford as well.  In fact, the 1933 Evanston City Directory does not show Ward Hansen as a resident of Evanston at all.  

Here's where the story gets complicated.  By the 1940 Census, Ward D. Hansen is divorced, has moved to Los Angeles, California and has changed his name to Ward D. Hanford.  

At this point the paper trail thins out.  We do know that when he registered for the draft on April 25, 1942 that he lived at 129 S. Kenwood in Glendale, California.  He listed his occupation as "self-employed."  For the question "Name and address of a person who will always know your address" he listed "Mr. Allen" from the Bank of America in South Pasadena - not his son or daughter.

Sometime after 1942 he married a woman named "Hedy" changed from Hedwig, last name unknown.  We do know that Hedy became a naturalized American citizen on November 12, 1948. 

Ward D. Hanford died August 9, 1969 in Los Angeles, California at the age of 77.  He is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale on the Mausoleum Slope, Map #B17, Lot #198, Space #1

His wife Hedy Hanford died December 11, 1999 in Glendale at the age of 95 and is buried next to Ward at Forest Lawn

Thanks to Find a Grave member Kathy Salazar who took the Hanford grave photos for me.

This is where the facts end - now the speculation.  When I relate these stories I try as much as possible to stick to the facts.  But being a good genealogist sometimes means that you have to be a good detective - and many successful detectives rely on their hunches as they do their job.  So, that being said, the following is just speculation and not based on fact, so take it for what it's worth.

What made Ward Hansen leave Chicago where he had lived all his life for southern California?  Hansen built the homes on Mulford during the boom times of the 1920s.  I used to work for a bank, and all the home builders I knew were always one step ahead of the debt collector. Their resources are stretched thin and they need the profits from the sale of one house to be able to buy the materials and hire the labor to build another house.  Ward Hansen was probably caught in the real estate slump of the early 1930s leading into the Great Depression.  He moved out of 1200 Mulford in 1932.  We don't know whether he sold the house or lost it to the bank.  But even if he sold the house, after he paid his creditors he may have had little, if any money left - and no one was building or selling houses in the depths of the Depression.  Sometime after 1930 his marriage fell apart.  It appears that Ward and Theresa were separated in 1920 but they got back together by 1922 when their son Richard was born.  Perhaps the stress and pressure of his financial woes were too much and the marriage finally fell apart in the 1930s.  

Ward Hansen may have decided to get as far away from Chicago and all his troubles here as he could - and where better than Los Angeles, a big city with potential jobs for a carpenter and builder when the economy recovered?  And the best part - no Chicago winters to deal with.  A builder could work twelve months a year in southern California. Then Ward Daniel Hansen took the final and most dramatic step to sever his ties with the past - he changed his name to Ward Daniel Hanford

And so, Ward Hanford, in a new state with a new name got a new wife - Hedy.  He lived out the remainder of his life in Glendale, happy from all appearances, and died at the ripe old age of 77.  Let's hope that Ward was able to find the happiness in Los Angeles that had eluded him in Chicago.

May the man who was born Ward Daniel Hansen, and who died Ward Daniel Hanford rest in peace.


  1. Wow -- fascinating post! I appreciate all the hard work you did to find out as much as you did on this man!

  2. Ward was my grandfather. I am Shirley's daughter. From what my mother told me, her father left because of financial difficultt when she was a young girl and she never saw him again. He left his wife Theresa, my uncle with polio (Richard), and my mother, to struggle on their own while he found a new life for himself. They moved to Cincinnati,OH and my uncle eventually moved to LA. My mother tried her find her father, but never found him while he was alive.

    Thank you for doing this research. It's sad when a huge part of your family history and connections are lost. I never got to know my grandfather or anything about him.