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Going to Graceland

Graceland Cemetery is also known for its beautiful landscape and magnificent trees. Postcard printed by V.O. Hammon of Chicago.

Situated at Irving Park Rd. and Clark St. near Wrigley Field is Graceland Cemetery, a scenic 119-acre burial ground and arboretum where many of Chicago’s elite have been laid to rest. The cemetery was established in 1860 by lawyer Thomas Bryan and designed by landscape architects H.W.S. Cleveland, Ossian Simonds, and William Le Baron Jenney, who is also known for designing the first skyscraper.

Graceland became famous as the “Cemetery of Architects.” Along with its three designers, other prominent architects who are buried in Graceland include Louis Sullivan, who designed the Carson Pirie Scott building; Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who designed Chicago’s Federal Center; and Fazlur Khan, who designed the Sears Tower and John Hancock Center. The grave of architect Daniel Burnham, who was chief of construction for the 1893 Columbian Exposition, lies on a small, wooded island surrounded by a tranquil pond. 

 Other celebrities resting at Graceland include detective Alan Pinkerton, who founded the Secret Service, meatpacking baron of the Chicago stock yards Phillip Armour, heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson, and baseball player Ernie “Mr. Cub” Banks. A 2-ft. granite baseball monument stands on the grave of William Hulbert, who founded Major League Baseball’s National League. 

The grave of retailer Marshall Field, who was at one time Chicago’s richest man, is marked by a statue of a woman sitting on a regal, throne-like chair, resting her head in her hands with a mournful expression on her face. The statue was sculpted by Daniel Chester French and is titled “Memory.” 

The burial place of George Pullman, the first engineer to build a sleeper-car train and founder of the South Side “town” where his company’s laborers once lived, features a stately column and benches reminiscent of ancient Greece. But underneath, Pullman’s tarpaper and asphalt-covered coffin lies inside a large concrete block topped with railroad ties. This high-security grave was built because the Pullman family feared vandalism by angry laborers. The infamous 1884 Pullman Strike resulted when Pullman raised the rents for his workers without raising their wages and became a milestone for the labor movement. 

One man who now rests at Graceland, Ludwig Wolff, was known to have harbored a fear of being buried alive. His tomb was carved into a built-up mound with stairs leading to its entrance. The tomb includes a ventilation system and was equipped with bells and whistles just in case Wolff’s worst fear was realized. Some believe the ghost of Wolff’s dog guards the tomb, and his glowing, watchful eyes can sometimes be seen in the moonlight. 

Tomb buildings make for an eerie scene at Graceland. Postcard by The Gothic Tea Society. 

Strange occurrences have also been known to happen at the burial site of a young girl. Cemetery records confirm that a 6-year-old girl named Inez was buried at Graceland after her tragic death from diphtheria in 1880. Inez’s family had a statue of the girl’s likeness placed on her grave. The statue was known to go missing and return again mysteriously, much to the dismay of the cemetery’s security guards. The statue was eventually enclosed in a glass case to prevent such happenings, but the reports of disappearances and reappearances continued. 

A pyramid-shaped monument houses the tomb of beer brewer Peter Schoenhofen. The entrance to the tomb is flanked by a statue of an Ancient Egypt-era sphinx on one side and a Victorian-era angel on the other side. Maybe Schoenhofen wanted to make sure all of his bases were covered. 

Of all the grave sites at Graceland, perhaps the most striking and memorable is the final resting place of Dexter Graves, a hotelier who was one of the first people to settle in Chicago in the 1830s. The burial site is marked with an oxidized bronze statue sculpted by Lorado Taft. The statue is named “Eternal Silence” and depicts a larger-than-life hooded figure. The figure’s face is partially obscured by one arm clothed in a flowing robe and is, objectively speaking, pretty darn terrifying. Legend has it that those who are brave enough to get close enough to the looming statue and look into its eyes will catch a glimpse of their own afterlife. 

For those who want to see it for themselves, Graceland Cemetery is open to visitors. The cemetery’s website also advertises that spaces are still available for those who want to spend their final resting days in the company of Chicago’s past movers and shakers. 

 Written by Emily Ruzich 

Sources: Graceland Cemetery website: 
L Stop Tours blog at “Graceland Cemetery: Resting Spot for Chicago’s Nobility” by Tom Schaffner (January 11, 2020) 
Chicago Hauntings blog at “The Mystifying Silence and the Ghosts of Graceland Cemetery” by Ursula Bielski (April 9, 2019)


  1. I love this cemetery! I was raised in the neighborhood and always loved hanging out in there. I especially liked the little island i would sit out there for a long time it was so quiet and calming to me.. its definitely one of the most beautiful cemeteries I've ever been in..

  2. NBC's WMAQ in Chicago produced an hour-long special in 1971 on the cementary covering histories of Pinkerton, Jack Johnson and others.


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