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Resting in Local History
on April 27, 2004
There are some who think it's weird to tour cemeteries. They're missing the serene tribute to a city's history -- graveyards are neighborhoods and time capsules; art museums and in some cases the final repositories of enduring secrets.
Hucke and Bielski serve as knowledgeable and respectful tour guides for some of the most impressively landscaped, richly historical acres within and adjacent to the city's urban sprawl. It's a field trip through bold headlines and unsung achievements represented by a carved catalog of famous -- and infamous (at Mount Carmel Catholic Cemetery, mob boss Sam Giancana's mausoleum is padlocked) -- names.
The book follows Lake Claremont's practical design of dividing interesting sites by sections of the city map. I know from firsthand experience that you can spend the whole day in the Metro North area touring renowned Graceland Cemetery (Chicago's second oldest burial ground, final home to many whose surnames -- Field, Getty, Palmer, Kinzie, Kimball, Goodman, Sears, Armour, and Pullman to drop just a few -- are synonymous with Chicago's growth); or Rosehill, within whose 350 acres lie bicycle king Ignaz Schwinn, water magnates Otis Ward Hinkley and George Schmitt, shoe guru Milton Florsheim, "merchandising arch-enemies" Aaron Montgomery Ward and Richard Warren Sears, and 14-year old Bobby Franks, murdered in 1924 by University of Chicago students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.
Hucke and Bielski devote much-deserved attention to the artistic aspect of grave markers and cemetery architecture across a span of more than a century's worth of changing styles. Additional highlights: more unusual burials (attorney Clarence Darrow's ashes scattered in Jackson Park; musician Steve Goodman's cremains under home plate in his beloved Wrigley Field); a nod to necropolises in outlying areas, and a partial directory of Chicagoland cemeteries. This unusual guide is unusually enlightening on many levels fundamental to Chicago's identity.