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Ever wondered what inspires a CAC tour? Visit the backstory of our noted Graceland Cemetery walking tour, developed in 1975 by CAC docents. This tranquil outing through solemn space features an array of historic architectural styles in context.

by Nikki Snodgrass, Media Relations Manager

Why Graceland Cemetery?

Surprising as it might sound, Graceland Cemetery, established in 1860, holds on its grounds a collection of truly notable architecture. Graceland’s 150-year accretion of local art and design tells a tale of architectural styles and a history of Chicago marked by famous architectural names. CAC’s walking tour of Graceland shares with visitors the stories of why the tombs and headstones were designed the way they were, and for whom. 

The Stories of Architecture and Chicago

Louis Sullivan’s Carrie Eliza Getty Tomb has been called “the beginning of modern architecture in America.” It’s a testament not only to Sullivan’s imagination, but to the way that such an environment can accommodate and even inspire a design that forever altered the world of architecture. Other Graceland monuments include work by sculptors and architects Lorado Taft, Daniel Chester French, William Le Baron Jenney and Solon Beman. Tour takers will recognize many of the names etched into markers as well: George Pullman, Potter Palmer, Charles Wacker and Marshall Field are just a few of the Chicago icons buried in Graceland, and the stories of how the city was founded and developed are illustrated in every acre of the cemetery.

A Cemetery of Architects

Graceland Cemetery is sometimes called the “cemetery of architects” because so many esteemed members of the profession have been laid to rest there. In fact, it’s that aspect of Graceland that attracted several CAC docents to the organization’s docent program in the first place. Many of the tombs and headstones found in Graceland are both the work of famous architects and markers for the resting places of a number of our most beloved and acclaimed designers. Louis Sullivan, John Glessner, Daniel Burnham, William Le Baron Jenney, John Root and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe are all buried in Graceland, remembered by monuments that illustrate a range of architectural styles including Egyptian, Greek, Art Deco and Modern, among others.

A Walk through Graceland Cemetery

Visitors to the cemetery prize its hushed environs. William Le Baron Jenney and Ossian Cole Simonds both had a hand in creating the serene atmosphere, with unique landscaping that includes gardens, lakes, shaped vistas, paths and earthworks. For their walking tour, CAC docents understood that Graceland’s restful setting would be as essential to the tour as the monuments themselves. 

Graceland continues to be much more than simply an active cemetery. The 125-acre space is truly an open-air museum of history, art, architecture and landscape. In recognition of its significance, Graceland Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.