UPTOWN — Graceland Cemetery has been around since 1860 — which means it’s become the final resting place to many of Chicago’s most fascinating and famous residents.
Of course, it’s also rumored to have 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 biggest cemeteries in Chicago.
Thomas Bryan, a lawyer with a successful Chicago practice, bought 80 acres to build out Graceland as a beautiful garden cemetery, according to Mysterious Chicago Tours. He hired prominent landscape architect H.W.S. Cleveland, who was also behind other famous cemeteries, to work on the project. Bryan established the cemetery in 1860, and the state gave him a perpetual charter in 1861; his son was the first person buried there the same year.
Historically known as the “Cemetery of Architects,” according to Graceland Cemetery’s website, Graceland owes its exceptional beauty to the 19th century landscape architects who crafted 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 architects make Graceland famous for how it looks — they also made Graceland famous for who resides beneath ground. 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 final stop for many of the wealthiest people in the city’s history.
Bryan and other prominent Chicagoans led the company that ran the cemetery. That board of managers — along with wealthy Chicagoans who bought large family lots — make up a good chunk of the population at Graceland, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The long list of prominent folks buried there includes George Pullman, of the famous train company that gave its name to the Far South Side neighborhood; Joseph Medill, once the city’s mayor and Chicago Tribune owner; Daniel Burnham, who planned the World’s Columbian Exposition; and Marshall Field, of the former department store chain.
The ghost of Inez Clarke, a 6-year old who died 1880, is also said to cause mischief around the cemetery during storms, according to website Chicago Cemetery Guides. A life-sized statue of Inez is said to disappear from her enclosed case whenever lightning strikes nearby.
And the cemetery’s home to famed boxer Jack Johnson and beloved “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks.
Nowadays, the cemetery is overlooked by the Trustees of the Graceland Cemetery Improvement fund, a non-profit trust dedicated to maintaining lawn, headstone and burial upkeep of the garden grounds.
The grounds are open daily for people looking to run, bike or stroll through, though hours can vary depending on the season. Check online for hours or to schedule a tour.
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