Graceland Cemetery is the last “home” of famous Chicagoans for 161 years



UPTOWN – Graceland Cemetery has been around since 1860 – meaning it has become the final resting place of many of Chicago’s most fascinating and famous residents.

Of course, it is also said that there is a ghost or two.

The cemetery, at the corner of Clark Street and Irving Park Road, spans 119 acres and is one of the oldest and largest cemeteries in Chicago.

Thomas Bryan, a lawyer with a successful practice in Chicago, bought 80 acres to build Graceland as a beautiful garden cemetery, according to Mysterious Chicago Tours. He hired prominent landscape architect HWS Cleveland, who was also behind other famous cemeteries, to work on the project. Bryan established the cemetery in 1860, and the state gave it a perpetual charter in 1861; her son was the first person buried there that same year.

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Historically known as “Architects’ cemetery”, According to the Graceland Cemetery website, Graceland owes its exceptional beauty to the 19th-century landscape architects who designed it, including Cleveland, William Le Baron Jenney, and Ossian Simonds. Graceland was built as a Victorian style park with native plants, ponds and open lawns to add more “cheerful effects”, according to the University of Chicago.

Not only did the architects make Graceland famous for its appearance, but they also made Graceland famous for those who reside underground. Some of Chicago’s best-known architects, such as Louis Sullivan, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Fahzlur Kahn, are buried there.

The cemetery is also known as the last stop for many of the wealthiest people in the city’s history.

Bryan and other prominent Chicagoans ran the business that ran the cemetery. This board of directors – along with the wealthy Chicagoans who bought large family lots – make up a good chunk of Graceland’s population, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The long list of personalities buried there includes George Pullman, of the famous railway company that gave its name to the Far South Side district; Joseph Medill, former mayor of the city and owner of the Chicago Tribune; Daniel Burnham, who planned the Universal Exposition of Colombia; and Marshall Field, of the former department store chain.

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The ghost of Inez Clarke, a 6-year-old girl who died in 1880, is also believed to have caused damage around the cemetery during storms, according to the Chicago Cemetery Guides website. A life-size statue of Inez would disappear from its closed case whenever lightning strikes nearby.

And the cemetery is home to famous and beloved boxer Jack Johnson “Mister. Cub” Ernie Banks.

Nowadays, the cemetery is watched over by the trustees of Graceland Cemetery Improvement Fund, a non-profit trust dedicated to the maintenance of the garden lawn, gravestone and burial.

The grounds are open daily for people wishing to run, cycle or take a walk, although times may vary depending on the season. To verify in line for hours or to schedule a visit.

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