Posts made in April 3rd, 2010

Villa Am Meer, Chapter 4

Who’s Nellie Amaducci?

New here? Start with Chapter 1…

Big Mountain Ski Resort, Whitefish MontanaIt’s 6am Mountain Standard Time, and I’m writing this post from Big Mountain Ski Resort in Whitefish, Montana. I’m here with my family this weekend, a few cousins, aunts, uncles, and a bajillion teenagers. We took the Amtrak from Minnesota to catch the last weekend of skiing at Big Mountain. (Ironically, I hear it was 76 degrees yesterday in Minneapolis.)

The snow is still pretty good, at least on the back side of the hill. Much better than I expected. We were hoping for some fresh powder this morning, but I don’t see too much outside my window. Hopefully there’s more at the summit.

Now, in answer to your question (because I know you’re thinking it), I’m writing this blog post today – while on vacation – because I’d like to share some important news with you that I just received from the Benedict family.

But first, you need to get caught up.

In the last chapter, you learned that Villa Am Meer was built by a “Dr. Kohl.” He had a daughter, Elena Kohl, who married into the Benedict family, and that’s how the property came to be known as “the Benedict estate.”

From the newspaper article in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, I learned that “Dr. Kohl” was an investor in a citrus packing business that would eventually grow to become Tropicana. However, I didn’t have any more information about this “Dr. Kohl.” So, I moved him to the back burner for a bit.

Instead, I focused on Edward E. Benedict. I did another Google search and found his name mentioned in an article from a 1962 summary of proposals filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission:

Norda Essential Oil & Chemical Company. Inc., 601 West 26th Street. New York, filed a registration statement (File 2-19989) with the SEC on March 20th seeking registration of 200,000 shares of Class A stock, to be offered for public sale through underwriters headed by S. D. Fuller & Co, 26 Broadway. New York. The public offering price (maximum $15 per share) and underwriting terms are to be supplied by amendment. The statement also includes 30.000 Class A shares underlying 5-year warrants to be sold to the principal underwriter at l¢ each, exercisable at a price to be supplied by amendment.

The company manufactures, processes and distributes natural and synthetic essential oils, flavors, extracts. essences and aromatic chemicals used principally in the cosmetic, toiletry, food, beverage, cigarette and drug industries. Of the net proceeds from the stock sale, $2,200,000 will be used to reduce outstanding short-term bank loans incurred for working capital, and the balance will be added to working capital and used for general corporate purposes. In addition to certain indebtedness, the company has outstanding 804,478 shares of Class B stock, of which Hermann J. Kohl, president, Hertha Kohl, his wife, Duke & Benedict. Inc. and Elena D. Benedict (wife of Edward E. Benedict. executive vice president) own 23.6%, 29%, l6.6% and 22.8%, respectively. The Benedicts, together with their children and family, own about 30.9% of the outstanding stock of the company, and they are also principal stockholders and management officials of Duke & Benedict. Inc.

Aha! There was our mysterious Dr. Kohl. His full name was Hermann J. Kohl, and his wife’s name was Hertha. I Googled them and found Hermann’s obituary in the New York Times:

April 25, 1971 – Dr. Hermann Joseph Kohl, founder and board chairman of Norda Essential Oil and Chemical Company, Inc., manufacturers of flavors and perfumery, died yesterday at his home, 186 Riverside Drive. His age was 81.

Dr. Kohl was born in Germany on Aug. 7, 1889, received a Ph.D. degree in chemistry from Heidelberg University, and came to the United States in 1911.

He held various positions in New York until he founded Norda in 1924. He served as president until 1970, when he became chairman of the board.

Surviving are his widow, Hertha; a daughter, Mrs. Edward E. Benedict, and six grandchildren.

In memory of Dr. Kohl, the Benedict family announced the establishment of the Hermann J. Kohl Foundation for aid to students.

OK, so now I was starting to build a timeline. Hermann Kohl came to the U.S. from Germany in 1911 [actually, 1910]. He founded Norda, Inc. in 1924, and he built Villa Am Meer on Longboat Key in 1935. I wondered when their daughter, Elena, had been born and when she had married Edward E. Benedict. I was hopeful that Elena might still be alive, so she could tell me about Villa Am Meer in its heyday.

I decided to log on to to see if I could find the Kohls listed on the U.S. Census. That would help me determine Elena’s birth date.

Hermann Kohl, NY Passenger List, Sept. 18, 1910

I ran a search for “Hermann Kohl” in “New York” and found the actual ship manifest from the day Hermann Kohl first arrived on Ellis Island on September 8, 1910 (view image).

I looked at that image and was lost in nostalgia for a bit. Here was a young German immigrant, lucky enough to have left Germany just prior to the outbreak of World War I, arriving in New York City with nothing but a chemistry degree from Heidelberg University and a dream of making it big in America. I wondered if he’d had any idea at the time that his little fragrance company in Boonton, New Jersey would eventually lead him to become a shareholder in the world’s largest orange juice company.

I noticed another record for the Kohls, showing them listed on the 1920 U.S. Census. I opened up the original scanned document and found Hermann and Hertha, both age 30, living at their home at 336 Halsted Street, East Orange (ironic), New Jersey. Hertha’s 23 year old younger sister, Elli Trapp, was also living with them at the time.

But, where was Elena? Hermann and Hertha were 30 years old; I assumed they would have had their daughter by this time. But, who knows… maybe not.

I went back and ran a search for “Elena Duke Benedict” and found her listed on the U.S. Public Records Index, living at the property on Longboat Key, birthdate September 11, 1916.

Wait a minute… huh? If she’d been born in 1916, then she would have been 4 years old at the time of the 1920 U.S. Census.

So, where was Elena?

I went back to Google. I searched for “Elena Duke Benedict” and found her mentioned in an obituary for a man by the name of Louis J. Amaducci who died on March 3, 2005:

AMADUCCI, LOUIS J. – Louis J. Amaducci of Parsippany, NJ died suddenly at home on Tuesday, March 8, 2005. He was 87. Born in White Plains, NY to the late Romeo and Maria (Bilancioni) Amaducci on February 9, 1918, he was a resident of Parsippany for over 61 years. Mr. Amaducci was a 1941 graduate of Columbia University in New York City, earning a bachelor of science degree in Mining Engineering. Mr. Amaducci was the president of NORDA, Inc. of Boonton, NJ, a manufacturer of flavors and fragrances.

Hmm, so Louis Amaducci also worked at Norda, Inc. Interesting. But where was Elena Duke Benedict in this obituary? I scanned to the end and found her in the list of survivors: “…his sister, Elena Duke Benedict of White Plains, NY…”

Woah. Wait a minute. Huh?

If Elena was the daughter of Hermann and Hertha Kohl, how could she possibly be the sister of someone named Louis Amaducci?

So, once again, I went back to I Googled “Elena Amaducci” and found her listed on a 1937 ship manifest, travelling aboard the Europa with none other than Hermann’s wife, Hertha Kohl. They were returning home from a trip to Bremen, Germany. Elena was 20 years old.

Hmmm… curiouser and curiouser…

I ran another search for Elena Amaducci, this time with her birthdate entered.

Amaducci family on 1930 U.S. Census

Amaducci family on 1930 U.S. Census

I didn’t find an Elena Amaducci exactly, but I did find a “Nellie” Amaducci on the 1930 U.S. Census, 13 years old, living with her parents, Romeo and Mary Amaducci, in the town of Harrison, New York. Romeo’s occupation was listed as “Gardener.” Younger brother Louis was listed right after her.

Well now. Here was a mystery. How did Nellie Amaducci, born to Italian immigrants Romeo and Mary Amaducci, come to be known as the daughter of German immigrants, Hermann and Hertha Kohl?

Much more to come… and I promise I’ll blog again within the next day or two, so keep checking back, or sign up to receive update notifications by email.

Next time: A chat with Elena’s grandson leads to an interesting connection to the Ringling family (yes, *those* Ringlings), and some important news from Elena’s granddaughter.

Read Chapter 5…

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