Searching out examples of Egyptian revival architecture in Chicago took me to Graceland Cemetery. Despite it being a dull and dreary day, it was also my last. So, much to the amusement of the friendly and helpful ladies in the office at the entrance I set off in the drizzle anyway. Through the greyness of a typical end of winter day it was easy to imagine what a beautiful cemetery this must be in spring and summer, even early autumn. In summer it must be more like a park than what I think of as a cemetery.

The Palmer Mausoleum from across the lake.

The Palmer Mausoleum from across the lake.

Established as a private cemetery in 1860 by Thomas Bryan, a successful local lawyer, Graceland was always intended to be like a typical Victorian era cemetery; hence the park-like atmosphere. As a private cemetery, Graceland has attracted many of Chicago’s prominent people and their families. Consequently, there are some very elaborate and grand mausoleums and funerary monuments here, some of which were designed by some notable architects.

Entering the cemetery I was immediately struck by the number of obelisks dotted about. With the trees still bare, the silhouettes of these were clearly visible. Other Egyptian themes can be seen in Martin Ryerson’s (1887) tomb, which combines two Egyptian architectural forms – the mastaba and the pyramid, and Peter Schoenhofen’s (1893) tomb in the shape of a pyramid. What is interesting about Schoenhofen’s mausoleum is that the entrance is flanked by an Egyptian style statue of a sphinx on the right and a Victorian angel on the left. Now that is hedging your bets!

Looking for Egyptian influences, I was surprised by the variety of influences including a few Celtic crosses. And the sheer scale and grandeur of some of the neoclassical architecture was not anything I expected. The following photo-gallery gives an impression of the variety of neoclassical styles used by the various architects.


Getting to Graceland Cemetery

Graceland Cemetery is located in Chicago’s Uptown community area. Travelling on the CTA, the nearest station is Sheridan on the Red Line – which is about a 20 minute walk to the intersection of Clark Street and Irving Park Road, the main entrance. You can get yourself a map of the cemetery at the entrance office, but the Chicago Architecture Foundation offers guided tours, for details see their website. If neoclassical architecture interests you, this is a must see.