Monday, April 23, 2018

Stones and Bones 8 - Chicago's Graceland Cemetery

Suggested by listener: Kim Gasiorowski

Hundreds of Chicago's most noted historic figures are buried behind the stone and iron gates of the 121 acres that make up Graceland Cemetery. This graveyard is clearly one of the best examples of a garden cemetery featuring rolling hills, lush landscaping and peaceful winding paths. The monuments and memorials that mark many of the graves here are unique and beautifully sculpted. Graceland hails back to the Victorian Era and for that reason, the cemetery is oozing with history.

Like so many large cities of the era, Chicago found that its first city cemetery, founded in 1843, was becoming overcrowded and the city was encroaching on the cemetery. People believed that cemeteries were hotbeds for disease as well and they did not want them so close to the city. The selling of plots stopped in 1859 and bodies began to be disinterred and transferred to other cemeteries at that time. One of the cemeteries where these bodies were taken was Graceland Cemetery. Graceland Cemetery was founded in 1860 by attorney Thomas B. Bryan. Several landscape designers had a hand in shaping the cemetery. The original designs were created by William Saunders, who was an experienced designer of parks and cemeteries. Those designs were implemented by Swain Nelson. Nelson went on to landscape Lincoln Park. William Le Baron Jenney designed three of the lakes and an expansion. In 1870, H.W.S. Cleveland sodded the paths and plots to produce a uniform surface. Finally, the biggest impact to Graceland was initiated by Ossian Cole Simonds who served as Graceland’s superintendent from 1883 to 1898. He created more naturalistic landscapes and shaped long-view vistas. The cemetery was awarded a medal of excellence at the Paris Exposition in 1900. Simonds worked at Graceland until his death in 1931. Because of Simonds direction and vision that he had for making the graveyard a beautiful symmetry of monuments and nature, landscape historians regard Graceland Cemetery as "one of the most remarkable park-like cemeteries of the Western world."

Graceland is the final resting place of several victims of the tragic Iroquois Theater fire, which happened on December 30, 1903 and left 600 people dead. Many of those in attendance to see the matinee performance of Mr. Blue Beard were children as school was out for the Christmas break. Fire codes of the time were non-existent and several factors led to a deadly event. First, the theater had only one entrance. And although fire ordinances required separate stairways and exits for each balcony, the theater was not built that way. The area where scenery was hung was unusually large as were the other backstage areas. There were no sprinklers, alarms or any kind of water connections. And yet, the theater was coined as fire-proof. The firefighting equipment that was available was for use on low burning fires, not ones that started high like what was going to happen at the Iroquois Theater. During the second act, the orchestra started playing a dreamy waltz called "Let Us Swear by the Pale Moonlight." Suddenly, an arc light on the left side of the stage sputtered and ignited a strip of paint-saturated muslin on a drape. Nobody saw the fire start. But they soon realized there was a problem when blazing drapery fell to the stage. The performers bolted from the stage, save for one who tried to calm the crowd. It didn't work and everyone bolted for the 27 exits. The stampede crushed some and many succumbed to smoke inhalation as they pressed for the exits. Before the chaos was over, corpses were stacked seven feet deep. Thankfully, the tragedy spurred changes in safety standards of public buildings.
 
Inez Clark Monument is a mystery unto itself. The story goes that a little girl who was struck by lightning was named Inez Clark and she is buried here. A legend claims that the memorial disappears during thunderstorms for this reason. But the truth of the matter is that the little girl buried here is most likely Inez Briggs, the daughter of Mary C. Clarke from a previous marriage. She died of diphtheria. The memorial is beautiful and features a sculpted little girl encased in glass that was made by Andrew Gagel.

Marshall Field of Marshall Field and Co., the Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago, which he founded with John D. Rockefeller, is buried here. He died after contracting pneumonia while golfing. His monument was designed by Henry Bacon, the same man who designed the Lincoln Memorial, and the sculptor was Daniel Chester French. His early partner was Potter Palmer who developed much of State Street in Chicago. He sold his stake in the company to focus on real estate and one of the places he built is known today as the Palmer House Hotel, which we covered in Ep. 161. He died in 1902 and was laid to rest beneath the grand Potter Mausoleum which is a large structure of corinthian columns.

Martin Ryerson was a lumber baron in partnership with Henry Getty. The Martin Ryerson Tomb was commissioned by Ryerson in 1887 and designed by noted Chicago architect Louis H. Sullivan, who was considered the father of the skyscraper, and features an Egyptian Revival style. This one is pyramid shaped with a slant-walled mastaba at the base that features three windows. Highly polished Quincy granite was used to build the mausoleum and the roof is topped with a tower that has a stepped pyramid capping it. There is no outside decor like sphinxs. The interior has one of Sullivan's trademark arches framing a bust of Ryerson.

The Carrie Eliza Getty Tomb has these really amazing ornamental bronze gated doors that have patinated green over time. The doors are so beautiful that they were plaster casted and exhibited at the 1900 Paris Exhibition and won an award. A semi-circular archway stretches above the top of them and other intricate octagonal designs are inlaid into the limestone. The sides of the tomb feature their own semi-circular, bronze-clad windows that are similar in style to the doors. Lumber baron Henry Harrison Getty commissioned the mausoleum to be built in 1890 for his wife, Carrie Eliza. Architect Louis Sullivan designed this one as well. He had designed the Ryerson Mausoleum and since Ryerson had been Getty's partner, the lumber baron was familiar with how beautiful Sullivan's designs were. The tomb stands on its own triangular plot of land and is thought by many to be the most significant memorial in the cemetery. It is certainly the beginning of Sullivan's career in the architectural style known as the Chicago School or Commercial School. This style mostly pertains to commercial buildings and is represented by steel frame buildings with terra cotta and large plate-glass windows. These windows are referred to as Chicago Windows and have three parts: a large central window flanked by smaller windows on each side. Henry Getty died on March 31, 1919 in Paris and his body was shipped back to the US where he joined his wife in the mausoleum. Their daughter Alice was also laid to rest here in 1946. BTW, Louis Sullivan is buried here too.

George Pullman was an American industrialist and Engineer and is probably known best for his design of the railcar that bears his name. The Pullman was a sleeping car and revolutionized railway travel. At first, Pullman was a good employer building a company town and hiring black men to work as porters. But when the economy took a turn downward, he lowered wages and required longer hours of labor, and did not lower the standard of living in the company town. This resulted in the Pullman Strike of 1894. President Grover Cleveland ordered federal troops to squelch the strike and 30 workers died. Eventually, Pullman was court ordered to divest from the company town. Because of these labor struggles, when Pullman died he was placed in a lead-lined mahogany casket and was buried in the Pullman District Tomb, which was encased in steel and cement because his family thought labor supporters might try to dig him up and desecrate the body. The monument features a Corinthian column flanked by curved stone benches. The design is by Architect Solon Spencer Bemen, who designed the company town of Pullman.

The Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum is Egyptian Revival in style, built from gray granite and is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The architect was Richard E. Schmidt and he made the mausoleum for the Peter Schoenhofen family. Schoenhofen was a brewer and the Schoenhofen Brewing Company was among the largest in Chicago in 1880. The pyramid structure has a square base and the typical sphinx  of Egyptian Revival design. But then the Egyptian theming is broken up with an angel statue to the left of the entryway, which has doors that are inspired after the gateways at Karnak, in Egypt, and they are 40 inches wide by 84 inches high and feature cast lotus designs with coiled asps around the handles. A bronze molding of bundled reeds surrounds the door.This is one of the most famous monuments in the cemetery.

Victor Lawson was the Chicago Daily News publisher from 1876 to 1925. His memorial is marked with a medieval knighted figure known as The Crusader and was designed by sculptor Loredo Taft. Taft was an American educator, writer and sculptor. He studied sculpture in Paris. As a fun little rabbit hole, which goes perfectly with what I'm about to tell you, Taft was making sculptured adornments for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 and he was running behind schedule. He asked if he could use some of his female students as assistants. At the time, it was not socially accepted for women to work as sculptors, but the man in charge said, "Hire anyone, even white rabbits if they'll do the work." The group of talented women Taft put together included Enid Yandell, Carol Brooks MacNeil, Bessie Potter Vonnoh, Janet Scudder, Julia Bracken, and Ellen Rankin Copp and their group came to be known as the "White Rabbits."

The monument for Dexter Graves was sculpted by Loredo Taft as well and is called Eternal Silence. Some call the creepy figure the Statue of Death and legend claims that if you look into the eyes of the statue, you will see your own death! The sculpture is made from bronze and is set up against a black granite block. Dexter Graves led a group of thirteen families in 1831 from Ohio to Chicago. he died in 1844 and was buried in the old City Cemetery. He was relocated to Graceland and the monument was built in 1909 after his son Henry died in 1907. His son had left in his will, $250,000 in funds for the monument.


Kate Warne was the first female Pinkerton detective. She was hired in 1856. Pinkerton described her as a "commanding person, with clear cut, expressive features...a slender, brown-haired woman, graceful in her movements and self-possessed. Her features, although not what could be called handsome, were decidedly of an intellectual cast... her face was honest, which would cause one in distress instinctively to select her as a confidante." In 1858, Warne was able to bring the Maroney couple to justice after they stole $50,000 from the Adams Express Company. She worked her way  into the confidence of the wife of the prime suspect, Mr. Maroney. With Warne’s help, $39,515 was returned and Mr. Maroney was sentenced to ten years in jail. In 1860, Allan Pinkerton put Warne in charge of his new Female Detective Bureau. The Pinkerton Agency was hired to investigate secessionist activity and threats of damage to the railroad in Maryland in 1861. Warne was one of five agents sent to Baltimore, Maryland to investigate the hotbed of secessionist activity. While the investigation was unfolding, a plot to assassinate President Lincoln was discovered. This plot was to assassinate Lincoln on his way to take office for the first time. Warne took the aliases Mrs. Cherry and Mrs. M. Barley to conduct the investigation and she discovered the secessionist plot to kill Lincoln and it was as follows: "Just as Mr. Lincoln would be passing through the narrow vestibule of the Depot at Calvert St. Station, to enter his carriage. A row or fight was to be got up by some outsiders to quell which the few policemen at the Depot would rush out, thus leaving Mr. Lincoln entirely unprotected and at the mercy of a mob of Secessionists who were to surround him at that time. A small Steamer had been chartered and was lying in one of the Bays or little streams running into the Chesapeake Bay, to which the murderers were to flee and it was immediately to put off for Virginia." They managed to keep Lincoln from danger. Warne did a lot of spying during the Civil War. Warne died of a pulmonary edema on January 28, 1868. She was buried in the Pinkerton Family Plot at Graceland Cemetery. Her name is misspelled as Warn. Obviously, Allan Pinkerton is buried in this plot as well.

Other notable people buried here include the brother of Charles Dickens, Augustus Dickens, who died penniless in Chicago, Ernie Banks who played for the Chicago Cubs from 1953 to 1971 and was known as Mr Sunshine, John M. Kranz who was a Chicago candy maker, Daniel Hale Williams who was a black surgeon who performed one of the first successful operations on the pericardium and Cyrus McCormick who invented the mechanical reaper used in farming. William Wallace Kimball who founded Kimball Piano Company and has a memorial of large corinthian columns, The Goodman Mausoleum was built for Kenneth Goodman, a naval officer who died of the 1918 flu. He was a playwright and the Goodman Theater was also built in his memory. Dr. Christopher Manuel, anesthesiologist at Rush University, died at 41 in 2005 and has a statue of a boy playing a flute on his grave. The Hoyt Family memorial is crowned by three female statues. One holds a cross, the other an anchor and the third is nursing a child. Emilie Hoyt died with her three children in the Iroquois Theater Fire. Her father was a successful wholesale grocer in Chicago.

Graceland Cemetery is a beautiful example of a historic garden cemetery. Famous sculptors and architects are buried here, along with the movers and shakers who helped build Chicago. The monuments and memorials here are unique and the lush landscaping beautiful. This is a must see for any taphophile visiting Chicago! And that was just a little bit about the stones and bones found here!

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