A Design History
The story of one of Chicago’s most celebrated landscapes—a volume published in association with the Library of American Landscape History
Graceland Cemetery in Chicago was founded in 1860 and developed over several decades by a series of landscape gardeners whose reputations today figure among the most important in the field. An exemplar of the rural cemetery type, Graceland was Chicago’s answer to its eastern counterparts, Mount Auburn in Cambridge and Laurel Hill in Philadelphia. While the initial layout of the cemetery was the work of William Saunders, designer of Laurel Hill, the cemetery is most often associated with a later style of design that featured exclusive use of native plants. Graceland was considered one of the most perfect expressions of this design approach, hailed as the most “modern” cemetery in existence and “the admiration of the world.” In this book, Christopher Vernon carefully recovers the history of Graceland and the many hands that helped to shape its influential layout.
Following Saunders’s work, a succession of individuals contributed to the long evolution of Graceland’s landscape, including H. W. S. Cleveland, William Le Baron Jenney, and O. C. Simonds. In recent years, renewed interest in native plants and principles associated with the Prairie School of landscape design has led to a focus on Simonds’s contributions. While Vernon discusses Simonds’s work, he also considers the work of the cemetery’s other designers.
Known as the “Cemetery of Architects” because so many notable ones are buried there, Graceland remains a heavily visited attraction. This richly illustrated book helps readers understand how the influential and still beautiful landscape was developed over many generations, casting new light on the careers of several important landscape architects.
"Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery too often is best known for its 'residents' and their monuments. Now, thanks to this well-researched and illuminating book, the cemetery itself comes into view as a masterpiece of American landscape design. First laid out in 1860, the cemetery took shape as a result of national and local trends, including the innovation of the 'rural' cemetery as epitomized by Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the building mania in Chicago, which attracted architectural talent to that city even before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. William Le Baron Jenney – who finally has his own gravestone at Graceland – is a key figure for both the city and the cemetery. If this book had been written two decades ago, it would have had an elegiac tone, because over the years, some of the cemetery’s original features had fallen into disuse and guiding principles had been forgotten. Beginning in 1991, however, Graceland has seen one successful renovation after another, all based on careful research. This new book will serve that on-going project well, but equally importantly, it will help us to understand and appreciate cemeteries around the country that were built in the same spirit.""—Chicago History Museum Blog
"For those with a curiosity of the long line of history and thought that goes into cemeteries, Graceland Cemetery is an excellent and very much recommended pick, not to be overlooked."—Wisconsin Bookwatch
"The book breaks new ground by delivering on its subtitle, explicating the evolution of a place rather than discussing the evolution of the typology. . . . Indeed, the research that grounds Graceland: A Design History is impeccable. . . [The book] is destined to become the definitive work on the site."—Landscape Journal