Cemeteries, particularly those with extensive burials from 1840 onward, have always held a fascination for me. I do so mainly to (1) observe the art of how people wish to be remembered and (2) make a connection with people I view as important, either to the world or to myself. Chicago has two cemeteries excellent for both activities: Rosehill and Oakwood. Since the former has been well covered here, I'll mention a few additional things about it, and concentrate more on the latter.
Rosehill CAN be visited without a car, but only if you're willing to do some walking. The closest "El" stop is the Bryn Mawr Station, on the Red Line north of the Loop. Upon exiting, walk west on Bryn Mawr Avenue as it changes from a shopping street to a residential one. You'll get to Ravenswood Avenue just before you walk underneath a railroad line -- here you turn right (north). In about four blocks you'll come to Rosehill Drive, and the clearly marked entrance to the cemetery will be on your left.
One thing to know about Rosehill is that the families of two famous names in American business have requested that info about their ancestors' burial site NOT be given out. Plain and simple, the families do NOT want tourists visiting these places. You can obtain a map of some of the famous burials in this cemetery, but don't be surprised if some famous names seem to be missing. Although I was easily able to learn the location of the burial sites of these people, I had enough respect for the families to honor their wishes.
As for Oak Woods Cemetery, I'll start off by being blunt: it is NOT in the best part of town. Although I did not run into trouble while walking the mile or so from the El stop to the entrance, I can fully understand why others would not want to make this walk.
To get there using the El, ride the Green Line south of the loop to Cottage Grove. Note that there are two green line routes, one ending in Cottage Grove and one ending at Ashland/63rd. If you get on the latter, you'll have to change to the former at the Garfield Stop.
Once you exit at Cottage Grove at 63rd Street, walk south on Cottage Grove Avenue through a series of local shops, noting that the street numbers are getting higher. When you get to 67th Street, you are at the corner of Oak Woods Cemetery, which has a concrete wall around it. Turn left (east) and walk five blocks until you come to the entrance on your right.
Visitation hours are 8 to 5, although plan to start leaving at 4pm. Again, you can easily obtain a map noting the burial sites of famous people, such as Jesse Owens, Enrico Fermi, Cap Anson, and 'Georgia' Tom Dorsey. If you have trouble finding someone of interest, the office is more than willing to help.
Always remember that both these cemeteries are still active, and view their PRIMARY purpose as bringing a degree of comfort and support to those who are mourning the loss of a loved one. Assisting tourists to visit a celebrity grave is WAY down the list on their priorities, so proper respect for those who are in mourning is clearly a matter of common courtesy.
Last visit June 2011
We did this tour with the Architecture Foundation the 1st time we went and it was a bit heavy on the architecture and a bit light on the history of the people buried here. A better idea might be to pick up a guide at the entrance and self tour which is what we did in June 2011. You can print out some of the histories from their website and easily self tour.
You can park at the entrance, they told us there that they recommend about 2 hours to self tour. We only had about an hour before they locked the gates at 4:30pm so we drove to the far end and parked, walking around the section near the lake with the most famous people buried nearby.
Graceland, located at the NE corner of Irving Park and Clark, was established in 1860 and covers 119 acres. It was designed as a garden cemetery where people could visit the dead in a park-like setting.
Many famous Chicagoans are buried in Graceland including businessmen such as George Pullman (Pullman sleeping car), Marshall Field (retail), Potter Palmer and Phillip Armour (meat packing) and architects such as Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan and Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe. Many of the tombs were designed by Louis Sullivan as well, his own gravestone is very subdued in comparison to those he built for others. Daniel Burnham's is located on an island in the lake and is merely a rock with his name and dates on it.
In addition to the more well known residents' graves, also be sure to locate the monument to Dexter Graves, an eight foot tall bronze by sculptor Lorado Taft called "Eternal Silence". It's eerie black face, hidden with the green patina of the robes is quite haunting.
Mount Carmel Cemetery was consacrated in 1901. Over 200,000 people are buried in this Roman Catholic cemetery, but let's just say that some burial sites attract more visitors than others..! It is indeed the final resting place of numerous Chicago gangsters, including the most famous of all: Al Capone. Although I am not quite familiar with the history of the Chicago mafia, David, my tour guide for the day, was able to point out the grave markers of several notorious gangsters and describe some of their rather gruesome crimes. It definitely made for an interesting and unique off-the-beaten-path activity!
Mount Carmel Cemetery is located at 1400 South Wolf Road in Hillside, about 15 miles west of downtown Chicago. Al Capone's grave is located just a short walk right of the main entrance.
We visited Rosehill as part of the Great Places and Spaces weekend, I thought we were getting a tour of the cemetery grounds but instead it was a tour of the indoor mausoleum so someday we'll have to go back and see the rest of the cemetery. The cemetery is located at the corner of Bryn Mawr and Western, not too far from the Lincoln Square neighborhood.
The mausoleum is the final resting place of many men that Chicagoans are familiar with, John G. Shedd, the founder of the Shedd Aquarium; Aaron Montgomery Ward, the man who started up Montgomery Ward's as a catalog business and the reason why Grant Park is free of buildings; Richard Sears, a competitor of Montgomery Ward's in the catalog business; several members of the Florsheim shoe family, Jack Brickhouse, the announcer for the Chicago Cubs; and former Illinois Governor Richard Ogilvie.
During the cemetery's opening hours, you are free to enter the mausoleum, the only thing I found of real interest here was some of the beautiful stained glass windows inside some of the family crypts, of special note was that of Shedd's which was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.
The cemetery grounds are quite extensive, it is the largest cemetery in Chicago at 350 acres and at least twice as big as Graceland Cemetery but if you only have time to visit one cemetery, make it Graceland. The attached website shows some of the famous people who are buried at Rosehill, the only grave we saw was that of Charles Hull from which Hull House in Chicago takes it's name.
I've often driven past the Couch mausoleum in Lincoln Park and wondered what it was doing there, standing all by itself.
It turns out that Lincoln Park was once the Chicago City Cemetery where over 20,000 people were buried, most of whom were relocated (some into Graceland cemetery) in 1866 when the city decided to turn it into a park.
Although it was believed that the area was free of corpses except for Mr. Couch (and whomever else might be buried in there) and the unmarked grave of David Kennison , who claimed to be a 116-year-old Boston Tea Party survivor, occasionally bodies are found during construction in the area
Ira Couch was a well known wealthy hotelier, builder of the city's first grand hotel, the Tremont House. When he died in 1857, he was buried in this mausoleum.
Why is it still here? Story has it that the Couch family appealed to officials that it was too large and expensive to move, certainly the Couch family had some political clout in those days.
If you are near the Chicago History Museum, take a look for it, just north of it around Clark St. and North Avenue.
Stephen Douglas was a real estate investor turned Chicago senator. He is most known for his pre-Civil War politics and his Presidential Campaign against Abraham Lincoln in 1860. He is buried in an area just south of Chicago which was once part of his estate. Douglas' tomb was built in 1881 and has been designated a National Historic Site. The site is not in the greatest area but can be visited by those with an interest in such out of the way places.
The site is located at 35th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue,
Rosehill, on the Northern North Side, is one of Chicago's classic "Beaux Arts" cemeteries whose basic design and layout dates from the late 19th century. Graceland Cemetery nearby probably has more famous gravesites, but Rosehill's spaciousness and park-like setting to it that makes it a worthy pilgrimage site for those like myself attracted to the morbid arts.
I came here on a grey and gloomish late October Day with one of VT's Chicago masters, sambarnett. Sam looks a bit like a Dickensian undertaker, so he was excellent company. You can see more cemetery photos on my Rosehill Travelogue - and also (eventually) on Sam's Chicago pages.
Some people think that visiting a cemetery is weird; however, I find it to be a great history lesson. Rosehill Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Chicago, and its entrance was done by the same architect that did the Old Chicago Water Tower. You can tell that; it is a rare Midwestern example of castellated Gothic architecture.
If you visit Rosehill Cemetery, you will notice a tall Obelisk in the northeast corner. It belongs to Mayor "Long John" Wentworth who had an ego to match his size ( he was six feet six inches tall and weighed 300 pounds). He served as Mayor from 1857-58 and in 1860-61. Historians say that Wentworth once "crossed out every line in a history of the city that did not pertain to him"!
Before his death in 1888, he thought that this memorial would be "the loftiest tombstone in the West".He bought a huge obelisk.
The cost of this obelisk, including shipping from Maine, was estimated to be about $40,000. Today that would equal $260,000.The momument is a 70-foot-tall obelisk that weighs 50 tons. His lot is over 2/3 of an acre. It's quite ironic that Wentworth is virtually forgotten, but his memorial remains one of the largest of its kind in all of America!
It's also interesting to note that Vice President Charles G. Dawes is also buried in Rosehill. In addition, Rosehill served as a burial site for Union Civil War casualties. Just inside the gate is the soldiers' monument with each side representing the calvary, artillery, infantry, and the navy. There are long, straight rows of low headstones of more than 200 soldiers buried here.
Note: picture from Chicago Magazine
This is the largest and one of the oldest cemeteries in Chicago. Many prominent Chicagoans are buried here. From mayors and Civil War Generals to Oscar Meyer and Montgomery Ward. There are some gorgeous sculptures and gardens here. The picture is the Gothic style entrance made from limestone.
This is a photo of the grave of George Pullman, the inventor of the Pullman sleeping car.
By the time of his death in 1897, Pullman was so hated by his employees, his heirs feared that the body would be stolen and held for ransom so the coffin was covered in tar paper and asphalt, and enclosed in the center of a room-sized block of concrete, reinforced with railroad ties.
The monument was designed by Solon Beman and features a towering Corinthian column, flanked by curved benches.
Boundary Sheffield/Clark/Grace/Irving Park Streets.
Tours are held by The Chicago Architecture Foundation.
Visit the grave sites of some famous Chicagoans. The grave stones and statues are eerie but beautiful. Louis Sullivan (architect)and Marshall Field (store owner)find this their final resting place.
You MUST visit Rosehill Cemetery! It's so beautiful. Water, trees and a very peaceful place to take photographs or just to take a break away from the very busy city.