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Artists and Architects: A Tour of Chicago's Historic Graceland Cemetery

Lisa is a writer with a terrible case of wanderlust! She loves to photograph interesting places and provide tips to the casual vacationer.

"Eternal Silence" by Lorado Taft

"Eternal Silence" by Lorado Taft

How to get to Graceland Cemetery

Location: 4001 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60613

The cemetery is located on the north side of Chicago, just steps from the Red Line Elevated train station at Sheridan Road and several bus routes. The main cross streets are Clark Street and Irving Park Road.

History of Graceland Cemetery

This private but still functional cemetery was established in 1860 on what was considered the farthest outskirts of Chicago and what was once called Lakeview. Lakeview is no longer, as Chicago boundaries slowly crept further north over the years. This 119 acre cemetery was created in a park-like manner to house the final resting places of some of Chicago's most prominent figures, ranging from the first settlers, prominent business owners/entrepreneurs, sports figures and government figures.

Art and Architect buffs flock to see elaborate grave markers and statues that dot the landscape designed by famous architects and artists with close Chicago ties. Free maps are available via the cemetery office located near the front gate entrance.

Graceland Cemetery

Lorado Taft (1860-1936) Chicago Sculptor

Lorado Taft has two striking statues in Graceland Cemetery, Eternal Silence and Crusader.

Eternal Silence (1909) marks the grave of Dexter Graves (1789-1844) who was one of the first settlers in Chicago. He brought an entire community to Chicago from Ashtabula, Ohio in 1831.

Crusader marks the grave of newspaper publisher Victor Lawson, who created the Chicago Daily News and was also know as a generous philanthropist.

Taft is most famous for his façade work on many of the buildings at the World's Colombian Exposition of 1893.

Some of his most notable Chicago works include:

  • Fountain of Time (1910-1922) located in the Midway Plaisance just south of Hyde Park and the Museum of Science and Industry.

  • Fountain of the Great Lakes (1907-1913) located outside of the Art Institute of Chicago (Michigan Avenue at Adams Streets).

"Crusader" by Lorado Taft

"Crusader" by Lorado Taft

McKim, Mead & White: New York Based Architects

McKim, Mead and White are best known for their many famous New York designs. Their primary Chicago connection is from the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, in which they designed the Agricultural Building. They are best known for using the beaux-arts style of design, which incorporates classic Greek and Roman elements.

The "Greek Temple" is the final resting place of Potter (1826-1902) and Bertha (1849-1918) Palmer. Potter was a real estate magnate, merchandiser and entrepreneur. Perhaps the best known example of this is the famous Palmer House Hotel, which is still operational. The Palmers were also great philanthropists.

The Kimball Tomb is home to William Kimball (1828-1904), wholesaler of pianos and organs.

Both plots are done in a classic Greek style with columns and ornamentation.

Other famous works include:

  • Penn Station in NYC
  • Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn
  • Columbia University, NYC
  • Washington Arch located in Washington Park, NYC
Palmer Tomb-McKim, Mead & White

Palmer Tomb-McKim, Mead & White

Potter Tomb-a fuller view

Potter Tomb-a fuller view

William Kimball tomb-McKim, Mead & white

William Kimball tomb-McKim, Mead & white

Richard E. Schmidt (1865-1958)-Architect

Richard E. Schmidt was a contemporary of both Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright and belonged to the Prairie School of architectural design. His design of Peter Schoenhofen's tomb reflects an eclectic hybrid design using Egyptian and Victorian influences.

Peter Schoenhofen (1827-1893) was a wealthy brewer and entrepreneur. The tomb features an Egyptian pyramid, flanked by a sphinx and an angel that is distinctly Victorian instead of Egyptian. It is a remarkable, eye-catching piece of art.

Schmidt's other notable Chicago designs include:

  • The Schoenhofen Brewery Building
  • Humboldt Park Boathouse
  • Cook County Hospital Administration Building
  • Montgomery Ward Company Complex Buildings

Peter Schoenhofen Tomb

Peter Schoenhofen Tomb

Schoenhofen Angel close-up

Schoenhofen Angel close-up

Close up of the Schoenhofen tomb door which shows sylized Egyptian lotus and serpent door handle.

Close up of the Schoenhofen tomb door which shows sylized Egyptian lotus and serpent door handle.

Louis Sullivan (1856-1924): Architect

Perhaps the best known Chicago architect and father of the Prairie school of architecture, Louis Sullivan was mentor to many young architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright. He is considered the "father" of the modern skyscraper, utilizing the cheap and plentiful steel that became available at the advent of the 19th century, to design buildings that were taller, sleeker and overall lighter load than previous buildings which required a larger footprint to be able to carry the load of the structure.

The Getty Tomb, was commissioned by Henry Harrison Getty for his wife, Carrie Eliza. Henry Harrison was a prominent lumber merchant. You can clearly see the prairie school design elements in the ornamentation of the tomb. As a side note, several tombs at Graceland have been designed by Louis Sullivan and Sullivan himself is also buried there.

Some of Sullivan's most famous Chicago works:

  • Carson Pirie Scott Building
  • Auditorium Theatre Building (built pre-steel structure )
Getty Tomb-Louis Sullivan

Getty Tomb-Louis Sullivan

Getty Tomb-close up

Getty Tomb-close up

Ornamentation on the Getty Tomb

Ornamentation on the Getty Tomb

Solon Beman (1853-1914): Architect and Planner

Solon Beman is best known for his work planning an entire community for railroad magnate, George Pullman, which is located on the far south/southeast side of Chicago. The neighborhood and homes still stand, and most have been restored. The community was used for workers of the Pullman factory, which was also located on the site. George Pullman was the inventor of the sleeper car and was known to work his employees rather raggedly.

Pullman Tomb- Designed by Beman is George Pullman's tomb (1831-1897). Beman was influenced by the Queen Anne and Romanesque styles of the time. The tomb features a giant Corinthian column. Underneath, the casket is buried in a concrete block and on top of that are railroad tracks. Pullman was so disliked for his tyrant behavior that the family was worried his tomb was going to be tampered with, thus the extra security measures.

Pullman tomb

Pullman tomb

Spend an Entire Day Browsing

This cemetery is huge and home to other notables in Chicago (and beyond) history. I hope you enjoyed the small sampling of what I consider the "standouts". If you love history, art or architecture, I highly recommend visiting this magnificent and historical cemetery.

© 2014 Lisa Roppolo


Lisa Roppolo (author) from Joliet, IL on August 07, 2014:

Thanks! I agree. Some people think it is morbid to visit cemeteries, but there are great masonry tombs and statues to see. Works of art!

hardscape from 08247 on August 07, 2014:

Fascinating. I've never been to Chicago, but appreciate this information about another place to visit when I go. I agree with the other comments that your visuals are outstanding, especially the details in close ups. Thanks for inspiring me. Cemeteries are full of masonry structures.

Lisa Roppolo (author) from Joliet, IL on August 06, 2014:

Thank you Lisa Keating! There are a ton of things to do in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, so you need to come back for another visit! :)

LisaKeating on August 05, 2014:

I visited Chicago for the first time last spring. I wish I had know about this place. Guess I'll have to go again. Congrats on HOTD. Very informative.

Lisa Roppolo (author) from Joliet, IL on August 05, 2014:


Barack James from Green City in the Sun on August 05, 2014:


Lisa Roppolo (author) from Joliet, IL on August 05, 2014:

Thanks! :)

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on August 05, 2014:

Amazing photos of this Chicago landmark! We have so many awesome sites in the area. Thanks for sharing the Chicago love and congrats on Hub of the Day!

Lisa Roppolo (author) from Joliet, IL on August 05, 2014:

Thank you! There are so many more statues and notables to explore in that cemetery, it seems unfair that I singled these out, so I encourage anyone traveling to the Chicago area to spend the day exploring the site.

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on August 05, 2014:

Congratulations on HOTD! This is so interesting and informative and I never knew about this cemetery until reading this hub. The statues are wonderful and the tombs are magnificent and well decorated. Your photos of everything are gorgeous. Thanks for the virtual 'tour' of the statues and architecture of this prestigious cemetery. Voted up+

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