It doesn’t get as much love from the tourist guides as Graceland, but Rosehill Cemetery, which at 350 acres is the city’s largest boneyard, contains just as many prominent Chicagoans—including 14 mayors, 16 Civil War generals, philanthropist Charles Hull, and 14-year-old Bobby Franks, murdered for the intellectual challenge of it by University of Chicago students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. Not to mention what’s essentially a public museum for one of the world’s largest collections of Tiffany stained glass: its massive communal mausoleum.
The necropolis contains the crypts of retail pioneers Aaron Montgomery Ward, Richard Sears (whose ghost is rumored to roam the hallways), and John G. Shedd. The Shedd Chapel occupies a place of honor, front and center just behind the main entrance. Bathed in sun from a skylight bordered by an intricate vine pattern, its inviting white marble atrium is ringed with leather-cushioned benches and chairs whose bronze backs, carved with seahorses and other images of marine life, reflect the patriarch’s aquatic interests. (For the frosh: perhaps you’ve heard of the Shedd Aquarium by now.) Behind the heavy bronze doors of the crypt is an astonishing Tiffany window featuring a shrouded figure in white clutching a sword, a torch, and a key. According to local “ghostlorist” Ursula Bielski, Shedd made Tiffany sign a contract guaranteeing its uniqueness. Walk through the many corridors of the mausoleum just before dusk some quiet autumn day and watch the sun filter through irises, rivers, mountains, and trees, all illuminating a twilight world of titans and ordinary Chicagoans now lost to history. The Chicago Architecture Foundation offers formal tours September 23 and October 14; for information visit architecture.org or call 312-922-3432. 5800 N. Ravenswood, 773-561-5940, rosehillcemetery.com. —Kerry Reid
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