Saturday, February 16, 2008

Graceland Cemetery

It's not exactly obscure, but Graceland Cemetery, located along Clark on the city's north side, does constitute a kind of urban dead zone (ha!), a massive bump separating Wrigleyville, Uptown and Andersonville. A brick wall topped with barbed wire surrounds the 119 acres of gently rolling greenscape, hinting at a history of needing to protect itself from the crush of the city around it. Within the walls, however, awaits a pastoral Victorian funerary park quite at odds with the roaring L to its east and the urban hustle all around.

Graceland Cemetery

Within, many famous Chicago citizens are interred, including quite a few of architectural interest: Louis Sullivan; his 1960s champion, preservationist Richard Nickel; Mies van der Rohe; Daniel Burnham; his partner John Wellborn Root; and many others.

Graceland Cemetery

Sullivan left his mark on the place with two tombs, including the famous Getty Tomb; the rest of the headstones, memorials and mausoleums are likewise rich in ornament and style, if not originality.

More than anything, it's an oddity among the furiously insistent urban madness of Chicago, which historically has had a tendency to devour whatever non-commercial entity got in the way of its relentless development.

And it's still an active cemetery! For as little as $2,600, you too can be laid to rest there, in the considerable empty land that still remains.


Lynn Josse said...

I lived about a block and a half north of the north wall for a couple of years, but it was nearly a mile from my house to the entrance.

Once upon a time in my very early 20s I was walking around the northern end of the cemetery when a powder-blue station wagon driven by a little old lady came flying around the lake, took out a small tree, and came within a couple of feet of the Getty Tomb (and not all that far from me either) before coming to rest against another tree... The driver had apparently confused the brake and the acceleration. That was scary. (The two geriatric ladies seemed to be OK.)

Serhii said...

Did you visit Richard Nickel's grave?

Serhii said...

That didn't read as intended. If only modern life came with a complimentary copyeditor to cope with the vicissitudes of online context loss.

What I wanted to say:

Visiting Nickel's grave gives cold perspective to the goals and dreams of those of us who hope to, in some way, prevent wanton demolition of the built environment. That our lives are lives like any other, subject to risks and open to devastating loss. That every time we enter another abandoned husk we are that much more grateful to exit alive.

Robert Powers said...

I've made the pilgrimage to Mr. Nickel's resting place several times, and felt moved every time.