Graceland Cemetery | Chicago

Day 1 In Chicago

Half of my family live in Chicago, so I usually visit the city at least once a year. Having been so many times, I wanted to skip the usual attractions and explore corners of the city I’d never seen before. So, naturally, I asked my cousin to take me to a cemetery. I was not disappointed. Graceland Cemetery is one of the largest and grandest graveyards I’ve ever had the pleasure of strolling through. Well, in this case, it was less like strolling and more like trekking. The grounds span nearly 120 acres, so we spent about 3 hours wandering in the horrible humidity of June. I kid you not, the cemetery provides maps for its visitors because it’s so easy to get lost.

The History

Graceland Cemetery was built in 1860. After the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, many of the bodies which were originally laid to rest in Lincoln Park were transferred to Graceland. Unlike our usual dark and gloomy idea of cemeteries, Graceland was designed to have a comfortable, park-like atmosphere. During the 1800’s, this was actually quite common. When people felt like spending time outside, they would often go for walks through their local graveyards. Victorian-era cemeteries were made to feel welcoming. Unlike the tight, ordered rows of graves in modern cemeteries, the Victorian graves were purposefully placed in an irregular manner, leaving plenty of space for visitors to weave through them as they walked. 

Notable Graves

Here lies Inez Clarke, daughter of John and Mary Clarke (although there is some speculation that she is actually Inez Briggs, Mary’s daughter from a previous marriage). Legend has it that Inez died when struck by lightning, either during a picnic or while being locked outside. They say that her statue disappears during lightning storms because poor Inez is so afraid.

Here lies Dexter Graves. He died in 1845, and was one of the bodies moved to Graceland after the fire. His remains are guarded by a terrifying statue entitled, “Eternal Silence”, which was created by Lorado Taft in 1909. There’s a legend that if you look into the figure’s eyes,  you will be given a vision of your own death.

See anything?

             Jack Johnson

Can we just take a moment to appreciate the fact that this woman’s name was Olive Branch? 

I love finding graves without a death date, especially when there is no possible way that they could still be alive. I like to imagine good ol’ Marie enjoying her golden years (she’d be 128 as of 2016) sipping mimosas on some beach in the Bahamas.

Sorry, kids. Santa has been dead since 1914.

Other Highlights 

Graceland Cemetery, final resting place to so many of Chicago’s elite, was so overwhelming. So much land, so many spectacular graves, some of which don’t even seem like they could possibly be in Chicago. Overall, I give this cemetery an A+, but, if you plan to visit, I suggest that you avoid going on one of the hottest days of the year, because you will be miserable.