A private cemetery
since its beginning, Graceland was established in 1860 by Thomas Bryan, a lawyer
with a successful Chicago practice. He purchased its original 80 acres and received
a perpetual charter from Illinois in 1861, and soon hired prominent landscape
architect H.W.S. Cleveland to plan its park-like ambiance.
With Bryan as
president of the cemetery company, many prominent Chicagoans joined the board
of managers, including the city’s first mayor, real estate entrepreneur
William Ogden. Many other wealthy Chicagoans became members and purchased large
family lots and “landscape rooms.” Still an active cemetery, even
today Graceland can accommodate a few more Chicago families who want to join
this prominent pantheon.
southern boundary – now Irving Park Road – was two miles outside
Chicago’s city limits, in the town of Lake View. After some negotiation
with the town’s residents, Graceland expanded eastward and northwest to
encompass its present size of 119 acres.
Long famous as
the “Cemetery of Architects,” Graceland Cemetery even owes its design
and exceptional natural beauty to two 19th century landscape architects.
It began with
a plan by landscape architect Cleveland, which, in the 1870’s, saw the
cemetery’s paths and plots uniformly sodded, and the fenced and curbed
plot boundaries eliminated. This helped created the Victorian park style atmosphere
that soon was enhanced by Ossian Simonds. When Graceland grew to its present
size, Simonds innovative design used native plants to create the cemetery’s
pastoral landscape, which today makes it one of the most beautiful places in
Chicago for residents and tourists to visit.
is owned and operated by the Trustees of the Graceland Cemetery Improvement
Fund, a not-for-profit trust. Revenues provide for maintenance of the grounds
and the monuments and tombs therein.
The Cemetery is
open to all to visit, and its architectural masterpieces, local history and
beauty are the magnets that attract people to Graceland. While architects from
the traditional to the father of skyscrapers and modern masters take center
stage, you’ll find that Graceland also holds fascinating stories of private
eyes and public figures, baseball and boxing greats, merchants and inventors
and other unique individuals.