History of the Nickerson Mansion:

1899

Chicago Daily Tribune, February 23, 1899, page 5

Rob the Nickerson Home
Thieves Invade Residence of National Bank President. Use a Jimmy at 2 in the Morning to Gain Access Through Windows Supposed to Be Burglar Proof — Prowl Around by Candle Light and Abstract $400 Worth of India Curios — Leave the Ivory Carvings and Jades.

In spite of safeguards against thieves perhaps the most elaborate and costly possessed by any private residence in Chicago the home of Samuel M. Nickerson of the First National Bank, at Erie and Cass streets, has finally been entered by burglars and looted of some of its costly India bric-a-brac and silver. While every window in the mansion, at the sides and rear of the house, from the basement to third story, was protected by steel bars, and every door fastened by a combination lock and a steel gate, expert thieves stood in the glare of an electric street lamp and pried open one of the front windows, in Erie street, at 2 o’ clock in the morning, sawed through the shutters on the inside, and made their way into the house while the family was asleep.

Then the thieves prowled all over the ground floor of the house, and finally carried away $400 worth of silver amulets and other India curios, and a quantity of Russian jewelry, part of the collection with which the lower rooms of the house are filled. All the ivory carvings and jades, some of the most priceless, were left in the cabinets undisturbed. Apparently the thieves did not dare take away with them any of the collection which could not be easily melted up or converted. The family silver was locked in burglar proof vaults on the first floor, but the thieves might as well have tried to break into the First National Bank vaults as to have attempted these.
Considered it Burglar Proof

Mr. Nickerson has always looked on his house as burglar proof. It is a three-story stone structure, built straight up from the sidewalk on two sides. No one ever thought a thief would be bold enough to attack the windows or doors at the front of the house. A night watchman inspects the house every hour, and the lower windows are all protected by gratings. When the robbery was committed the street lamp and the night watchman were not only doing service, but it was also bright moonlight. The front doors, opening on the stone portico, are close to the Erie street sidewalk, and but one of the windows can be reached. To get at this a tall man would have to balance himself on a brass handrail over the sidewalk. This is what the thieves must have done.

At the time the robbery was committed Mr. and Mrs. Nickerson were asleep on the second floor, and the servants on the third. Mrs. Nickerson was awakened at 3 o’ clock by the night watchman, who found the front window wide open and rang the door bell. She did not stop to discover whether the thieves were still inside the house or to awaken her husband, but she told the night watchman to stand outside and shoot the robbers if they ran out, while she went in search of them herself. They had left the house, however, before the night watchman found the open window.
Prowled by Candle Light

After prying open the window sash with a jimmy the thieves evidently used a fine saw on the inner blinds and sprung the lock from the inside. From there they prowled around the house by candlelight. Tallow drippings were found in most of the rooms downstairs, and it was evident the thieves only took a glance at the vaults where the family plate is stored. The doors of all the cabinets in which costly curios collected in India and Russia by Mr. and Mrs. Nickerson were opened, but the thieves only took what looked like gold and silver.

Most of the articles taken were outside of the cabinets. A number of solid silver amulets, nose rings, and girdles from Thibet and India were carried off, and a quantity of Russian jewelry, which looked like solid gold and which were set with semi-precious stones. There were thousands of dollars’ worth of ivory and rare jades in the cases, but the thieves were too wise to risk detection by carrying them off. The silver and jewels Mrs. Nickerson says, have practically been given up for lost. She added that the loss would not much exceed $400, and that the chief value lay in the fact that they had been collected by her husband and herself as mementos of their visit to India. While no one was suspected Mrs. Nickerson said the robbery evidently was committed by somebody familiar with the house.

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