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Graceland - Victorian Cemetery Chicago
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© Christine Till
Graceland Cemetery is one of Chicago's best-known and most historic cemeteries. It was established in 1860, originally outside city limits, but engulfed as the city grew northward. The original City Cemetery was on the lake front, and was considered a health hazard due to overcrowding and water-borne diseases. The bodies were moved to nearby Graceland in the town of Lake View, with the old city cemetery becoming what is now Lincoln Park.
Eli Williams, 1799 - 1881, was one of the early settlers of Chicago when the population numbered a mere 200. He ran a store, made money in real estate, built a hotel, became active in civic affairs, and died wealthy. This monument in Graceland Cemetery marks his burial place, shared with several family members; it features a woman holding a cross, and is almost completely covered by ivy during summer and autumn.
This statue on Eli Williams' plot is very representational of Queen Victoria's reconception of the early 19th century "graveyard". Along with their movement to reform cemeteries, the Victorians placed great emphasis on the ceremonies surrounding death. In the Victorian era lavish funerals became the rule, and sentimental figures such as this one were often part of the extravagant cemetery memorials erected over the graves.
February 27th, 2013
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