Hometown Tourist: Graceland Cemetery

Any time I ride the Red Line north of Belmont, I do two things: I whine internally about how far I am from my side of town, and I admire the long stretch of green cemetery that glides past the window in Uptown. In late June, I finally stopped riding by it and stopped in for a visit.

Graceland Cemetery was built before the Civil War, back when it was well outside city limits. Apparently it was a new thing at the time, started by Queen Victoria, to make graveyards less jumbled plots of sadness and more spacious parks for picnicking and dignified visits with the deceased. When I went, it was absolutely empty. Granted, this was during one of those weeklong stretches of 100-degree weather we’ve had this summer, so it wasn’t exactly an ideal time for a stroll.

Still, Sessily and I had a nice time walking down the meandering paths and looking at the various monuments and gravestones. I always thought predominantly Christian graveyards would have a bunch of stone crosses and marble angels, but this one is full of self-important movers and shakers of Chicago, so it’s populated with grandiose tombs and a lot of obelisks.

And now, many pictures. Enjoy!

Are these graves for people who really loved their dogs?

Or are they graves for the actual dogs?

Totally natural dance pose

There really were a lot of obelisks

This cherub is not happy about guarding this tomb for all eternity

Daniel Burnham got his own private island. Baller.

The row houses of Graceland Cemetery

Where it is: 4001 N Clark St., at Irving Park Rd. (there’s only one entrance)

When to go: 8am-4:30pm daily (office is open 9-4 M-F, 10-3 Sat, closed Sun); some tours operate on weekends during the warmer months

What to see: The office just inside the gates has a map and guidebook for sale, but you can also take a couple free pamphlets that show the basic lay of the land and point out some of the more famous monuments in the cemetery.

Cost: Free

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4 thoughts on “Hometown Tourist: Graceland Cemetery

  1. Before I left London I did something similar with Highgate cemetery. It is part of a ring of cemeteries in London set up those crazy Victorians and they had some fascinating views on the life after. We went in the pouring rain though, seemed slightly more appropriate than the blazing 100 degrees you were dealing with.

    • That does seem appropriate, especially for a British cemetery.

      I think maybe the 100 degrees was to give me an idea of the hell some of these shady businessmen buried here were suffering in the afterlife.

  2. This is awesome! I’ve always wanted to stop into this one. I’m similarly curious about Rosehill Cemetery near me.

    • Yeah, I want to see Rosehill, too! That one looks even more packed than Graceland. The website for Graceland Cemetery is mainly focused on selling new plots, which didn’t even occur to me, since I see it as a historical place.

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