Graceland Cemetery, a Piece of Chicago’s Architectural History

Graceland Cemetery, a Piece of Chicago’s Architectural History

One of the most well known and historical cemeteries in Chicago Illinois is Graceland Cemetery. This beautiful Victorian cemetery founded in 1860 acquires approximately 119 acres of land. Designed in a park like setting, Graceland is situated along high ground, making the land an appropriate place for burial. Originally the city’s cemetery was located at Chicago’s lake front Lincoln Park. In 1871, the Chicago City Council ordered the Lincoln Park cemetery to move all its graves due to fears that burials could contaminate the waters of Lake Michigan. Most of the burials were moved from Lincoln Park to Graceland, located in the northern Chicago community of Lakeview, with the main entrance being at the corner of Clark Street and Irving Park Road.
The founder of Graceland Cemetery was Thomas Bryan. Bryan was a successful Harvard educated lawyer from Virginia, and became the president of the cemetery company. The company also included a board of managers, made up of several well to do Chicagoans. Among those who have been laid to rest at Graceland include well known architects, real estate developers, politicians, and inventors. Some other famous Chicagoans who are now resting at the cemetery are John Kinzie(one of the earliest Chicago settlers), Marshall Fields(well known businessman and retailer), and Joseph Medill(the first publisher of The Chicago Tribune).

One of the first things people will notice when visiting this cemetery is its amazing architecture and beautiful landscape design. The landscaping at Graceland was designed by landscape architect Ossian Cole Simonds. Simonds was also a founding partner of the architectural firm Holabird amp; Roche, who designed Graceland’s beautiful entrance gates, chapel, office building, and mortuary crypt. Two of the most notable pieces of architecture at Graceland is the Getty Tomb, and the Martin Ryerson mausoleum, both designed by architect Louis Sullivan. Sullivan is one of many architects laid to rest at the cemetery.

Graceland Cemetery has had its share of urban legends and ghost stories during the years of its existence. The most famous story is about the statue of Inez Clarke. This beautiful statue of a girl has been well protected from the elements, enclosed in a clear glass box kept in perfect condition since it’s creation in 1870. Inez Clarke is said to have died unexpectedly from a lightning strike at the age of six years old. The monument is marked with Inez Clarke, 1873-1880, with her parents’ headstones nearby. To this date, visitors to her grave will find coins, flowers, toys, and gifts left at the foot of her monument. Legend says that her statue will sometimes disappear from the glass case, only to return my daylight, and a young girl can be found playing in the cemetery near her monument. Security guards have been spooked and have quit their jobs after experiencing supernatural occurrences. Although this is one of the most popular ghost stories from Graceland Cemetery, there are no actual cemetery records of an Inez Clark even existing. Records do show that Mary and John Clarke who rest nearby only had two daughters, and neither daughter was named Inez. It is possible that two boys named Amos Briggs and Delbert Briggs are the actual ones laid to rest at this particular location.

Chicago Architecture Foundation offers two types of tours through Graceland Cemetery. You can find all the important details including cost, times and dates of tours, and ticket purchasing information at their website.

If you are interested in more of a “ghost story” oriented tour of Graceland and many other historical Chicago locations, visit the website of Chicago Hauntings.

I suggest picking up a map at the office if you visit the cemetery on your own. The map will help identify graves of some of the most well known individuals. You may also purchase a book titled “A Walk through Graceland Cemetery”, which contains some fantastic photographs of the cemetery.

Graceland Cemetery is located at 4001 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois. Cemetery Gates open daily from 8am until 4:30pm. Office hours are Monday through Saturday from 8:30am until 4:30pm. You can call the office at 773-525-1105 with any questions you may have.