Forgotten Chicagoans: Arne Waaler

The building at 687 N. Milwaukee Avenue in River West reads "A. WAA ER" near the top. Sometime in the last 100 years, this epigraph lost its "L".

Arne Waaler was born April 9, 1840 in Norway. He arrived in the United States in 1870 and became a Naturalized citizen in Chicago on August 1, 1874. He married Amelia Olsen, also from Norway, on June 2, 1894; he was 54 years-old and she was 33.

Waaler had worked in leather and findings since he came to the United States. His business was always in River West. He was originally located a few blocks away at what is now 921 W. Erie St., but moved to 491 N. Milwaukee Ave. by 1875. He built this building back down the street in 1890 and remained here for at least the next 20 years. His business had to be modest; although he is listed in the city's business directories, he never made any attempt at notable advertising.

He died the day after his 74th birthday in 1915. He had only been retired for a few years. He is buried at Mt. Olive Cemetery.

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