Graceland Cemetery: Daniel Burnham’s Final Green Space
Obviously, I’ve been writing a lot about Chicago recently. Taken a lot of pictures too. The other day I took a ride up to Graceland Cemetery. Graceland Cemetery has been the final resting place of Chicagoans since 1860.
Carl Sandburg wrote a poem about it, criticizing the money spent on caring for the dead.
GRACELAND by Carl Sandburg
TOMB of a millionaire,
A multi-millionaire, ladies and gentlemen,
Place of the dead where they spend every year
The usury of twenty-five thousand dollars
For upkeep and flowers
To keep fresh the memory of the dead.
The merchant prince gone to dust
Commanded in his written will
Over the signed name of his last testament
Twenty-five thousand dollars be set aside
For roses, lilacs, hydrangeas, tulips,
For perfume and color, sweetness of remembrance
Around his last long home.
(A hundred cash girls want nickels to go to the movies to-night.
In the back stalls of a hundred saloons, women are at tables
Drinking with men or waiting for men jingling loose
silver dollars in their pockets.
In a hundred furnished rooms is a girl who sells silk or
dress goods or leather stuff for six dollars a week wages
And when she pulls on her stockings in the morning she
is reckless about God and the newspapers and the
police, the talk of her home town or the name
people call her.)
Visiting a cemetery where most all the dead’s children’s children are also dead is a weird experience. There’s no one around except the security guard and the landscaper. Outside the high brick walls and rusted barbed wire the city breathes on, but inside the walls, little moves. (At least during the day….)
Missing from the above slideshow are the tombstones and mausoleums of the men who made 19th Century Chicago: Philip Armour, the meatpacking magnate; Marshall Field, the retailer; Carter Harrison, the mayor; Cyrus McCormick, the Reaper guy; Joseph Medill, the publisher; Potter Palmer the businessman; Alan Pinkerton, the Detective; George Pullman, the industrialist.
We’ll get to all of those guys and a few others. Today we’re going to start with the man who is probably most responsible for the planning and layout of modern Chicago: Daniel Hudson Burnham.
It would be difficult to overstate the impact that Daniel Burnham (1846-1912) had upon the Chicago landscape. Burnham’s architectural partnership with John Wellborn Root produced notable Chicago buildings such as the Masonic Temple (demolished), Monadnock Building, Reliance, Rookery, St. Gabriel’s Church, and the Union Stock Yard Gate.
But it was Burnham’s career as city planner for which he is primarily known today. He was responsible for the layout and construction of the The White City. Later, Burnham wrote The Plan of Chicago which Chicago implemented during the early 20th century. Among other things, Burnham’s Plan of Chicago called for the reclamation of the Lake Michigan shoreline as parks and public space.
Given Burnham’s role in the beautification of Chicago through parks and green space, his gravesite is especially fitting.
Burnham’s grave is marked by a simple plaque on uncut stone.
As you might expect from the man who who worked to make Chicago green however, it is the natural setting in which Burnham’s marker sits which makes the site so impressive. The Burnham family burial site lies alone on an island in the middle of a small lake in the Graceland Cemetary.
The exceptional nature of Burnham’s grave site will become ever more apparent as we explore the nearby markers and mausoleums of his contemporaries.