Tour of Graceland Cemetery

November 3rd, 2004 · 8 Comments

On Sunday I took a 2-hour walking tour of Graceland Cemetery. Even though it was Halloween, the tour wasn’t about ghosts or being spooky. It was more historical and I’m thankful for that. Our tour guide, Sylvia, ruled. She was really knowledgeable and friendly, even if she did tell really bad jokes.

When I got to Graceland’s entrance at Irving Park Road and Clark Street, there were probably a couple hundred people waiting for the tour. We were split up into groups of about 25, which was a perfect size. Graceland is the final resting place of many of the city’s most famous names – John Kinzie, George Pullman, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Marshall Field, to name a few.


Eli Williams’ wives are buried sequentially in front of him and his monument.


Eternal Silence, also called the Statue of Death, is a bronze figure before the polished black slab of granite by sculptor Lorado Taft. It was created in 1909 and marks the body of Dexter Graves, a hotelier who died in 1844.




The Crusader is another sculpture by Lorado Taft. It marks the grave of the newpaper publisher Victor Lawson, who in 1875 started the Chicago Daily News.


This pyramid marks the burial site of Peter Schoenhofen who was born in Prussia. He was the owner of Schoenhofen Brewery.


This is William Kimball, the piano maker’s, gravesite and is one of the biggest monuments at Graceland. The marble is very porous and hasn’t weathered well over the years, unfortunately.


As we all know from reading Devil in the White City, Sullivan died lonely, alcoholic, and poor. It wasn’t until many years after his death that he began to be recognized as one of the greatest architects of his time. His grave is directly behind Kimball’s.



The Palmers were like the king and queen of Chicago. Potter Palmer owned 3/4 of State Street and was responsible for it’s development. He also operated an extremely successful dry-goods store with Marshall Field and Levi Leiter. He married Bertha Honore, who was considered the queen of Chicago high society.


Burnham is my favorite, after reading Devil in the White City. He was an architect and city planner and is responsible for many of the features of Chicago today. But what he’s famous for is being the chief of construction for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. Burnham and his family’s ashes are buried on an island in Lake Willomere in Graceland Cemetery.




Ludwig Mies van der Rohe always said “less is more” and demonstrated it in the design of his buildings. Even his gravesite abides by his philosophy.


William Hulbert founded baseball’s National League.

Overall the cemetery reminded me of Green-Wood, the cemetery I toured with Tien in Brooklyn last year.

Other famous notables at Graceland: Kinzie, Jenning, Jack Johnson, John Root, Pullman, Goodman, the Honores, Wacker, Armour, the Marshall Fields family, the McCormick family, Richard Nickel, and the Pinkertons and their detective agency.

Many thanks to for helping me translate my notes!

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • tien

    very nice. that death dude is creepy.

  • rachelle

    the statue of death is bronze and is due to be cleaned soon. it’s controversial because how the statue looks now is so dramatic, but when it’s restored to it’s original look, it will be all one bronze color.

  • ArthurE212

    Thanks for the postcards from the cemetery. Beautiful and meaningful photos, Rachelle. Much appreciated.
    I was at a cemetery in NJ on Halloween – laying my old sweet aunt to rest.
    Best to you in chicago – now I know a place to visit when in Chicago. I agree with Tien – the death dude is creepy.
    Consider visiting Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY, resting place of Susan B. Anthony, among others:
    They need Rachelle’s photos.

  • ChrisM

    Arthur what you are thinking of is Mt Hope Cemetery in Rochester NY. I spent many a pleasant day there in my youth hanging out and enjoying the park like ambiance that it has in common with most large urban cemeteries.

    Yes Susan B Anthony’s gravesite is to be found there, also the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglas plus many other folks of local (to Rochester) and/or lesser fame as the nice tour guides will inform.


    Selling Graceland

    Eternal Silence, Graceland Cemetery, Chicago I keep forgetting to post about this. A couple weeks ago I sold two photographs that I took in Graceland Cemetery of a monument called Eternal Silence. One of the photos is shown above….

  • Lunamelt

    I lived in Chicago while going to Loyola University and never realized that my great-grandparents were buried here until one day I found one of their death certificates while doing some genealogical research. I eventually found out that their full length markers (they are flat and the full size of the grave) were designed by Tiffany (I am assuming the designer and not the jewelry). I love to walk in the cemetery and see all the old monuments. I wish you had shown some interior shots of the Potter Palmer greek themed structure. It has multiple people buried both in raised tombs and in the floor. I have walked by the Death statue and believe me it is very creepy and compelling at the same time. I have already told my husband that I would love to be buried in Graceland if anything happens to me. My family still has space and I could not imagine anywhere more beautiful.

  • Chi-Town Romeo

    The gravestone of Dexter Graves is my favorite in Graceland cemetary or any cemetary for that matter…Have never seen an Angel of Death gravestone anywhere else

  • tedstrutz

    A blast from the past… I used to live in Chicago and loved to go to Graceland for a history lesson from time to time. One of my favorite gravestones is The Crusader, and I was glad to see you included him. What I think is interesting about this one, is that the name of the name of Victor Lawson is nowhere to be found. I took a photo with my daughter, the acting student, lying dramatically in front. I just went and looked at it, and there are no bushes in sight… he looks much better in your photo. I’ll look for your email and send it to you.

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