Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dexter Graves Monument - Eternal Silence
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Dexter Graves Monument - "Eternal Silence" (1909) Lorado Z. Taft, sculptor /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When Chicago businessman, hotel owner, and early resident Dexter Graves died in 1844 his earthly remains could no longer be deposited in the city cemetery at Chicago Avenue, but had to be transported up to the new cemetery located at North Avenue. The Chicago Common Council had passed a law in 1843 denying any further burials in the city-run graveyard that extended from Chicago Avenue to what would eventually become Oak Street; and from the Green Bay Road, which would become Rush Street, to the lake shore. The built-up portion of the city was on a march northward in 1843, and North Avenue seemed far enough away to establish a new cemetery far from town.

  [Dexter Graves Monument - "Eternal Silence," Graceland Cemetery, 4001 N. Clark Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Dexter Graves saw a future in Chicago, and in 1831 and was able to convince thirteen of his Ashtabula, Ohio neighbors to gather-up their families and join Dexter, his wife, and their four young children on their journey west. When they arrived on the schooner "Telegraph" they found a cluster of log cabins built on sandy, marshy ground lined-up along the south branch of the Chicago River, west of the tall stockade fence of the old Fort Dearborn. Graves, a tavern owner in Ashtabula, built the hamlet's first frame house and opened a hotel called the Mansion House on Lake Street near what would soon become Dearborn Street. Dexter prospered, however 1844 was not a good year for the Graves family. In January daughter Lucy died at age 25, followed by her sister Emeline in February. When Dexter Graves died in April of that year at his State Street home, he bequeathed a comfortable financial legacy to his widow and daughter Louisa, to be overseen by his two sons Lorin and Henry.

  [Dexter Graves Monument - "Eternal Silence," National Historic Landmark /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The year after his father and sisters' deaths, Henry moved far out-of-town to his brother's cottage in a cottonwood grove south of the city, where a street would eventually be platted and graded called Cottage Grove Avenue. Henry immediately set to work building a 2-story frame house near his brother, and after Lorin's death in 1852 took over the management of their father's estate. Henry loved horses, especially trotters, so in 1854 he built the Garden City Racecourse at 55th Street and Cottage Grove. He acquired 400 acres of farmland near Kankakee, Illinois and raised a line a thoroughbred racers.

  [Dexter Graves Monument - "Eternal Silence," City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By the mid-1860s the Chicago City Council found itself once again having to deal with moving the North Avenue cemetery. The built-up portions of the city were once again encroaching on the formerly remote location of the city cemetery, just as the expanding population had done so 20 years earlier. So it was time to move the deceased from their not-so-final resting place to a new final place of rest, only this time to privately run cemeteries like Graceland and Rosehill. Along with many of their at rest neighbors, the graves of the Graves family were relocated to Graceland. In 1891 Henry's wife Clementine died, and when 86-year-old Henry took his last breath on October 3, 1907 he died at home, in the 2-story frame house he had built 62 years earlier. And it wasn't as though he couldn't afford to move - he left an estate estimated in the $500,000 range which would translate to around $13 million today - he just never saw any reason to leave a perfectly good house simply to show how rich he was.

  [Dexter Graves Monument - "Eternal Silence" /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

He saved his showmanship for the afterlife. With no immediate heirs to leave his fortune to, Henry instead willed $40,000 for the erection of a memorial fountain in commemoration of his favorite racer "Ike." The idea was to construct a statue of Ike in Washington Park standing astride a mound surrounded by a fountain filled with water to quench the thirst of parched horses. His will also directed that $250,000, about one-half of the entire estate, be used for the erection of a mausoleum at Graceland Cemetery in memory of his father Dexter, "to be opened to the public three times a week." Henry's mausoleum morphed into much less expensive free-standing monument in memory of his father, with a bronze figure designed by Chicago's pre-eminent sculptor Lorado Taft. The hooded, 10-foot-tall statue was named "Eternal Silence" by the artist, and although the city of Chicago eventually gobbled-up the surrounding neighborhood, no Graves had to be removed.

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