5400 N. Pulaski Road
Chicago, IL. 60630
Bella Morte Rating: 2 Tombstones
Montrose was founded in 1902 by Chicago funeral home owner Andrew Kircher. In reading histories of the cemetery, it is abundantly evident that Kircher had great passion for Montrose and strove to make it as beautiful as possible. He hired famed landscape designer O.C. Simonds to plan the grounds which are quite pleasantly arranged and landscaped.
Kircher proved just as passionate when he hired architect Fred V. Prather to construct a Greek Revival Chapel in 1912. The building is quite captivating. It features two large, pillared porticos to either side. These are accessible from the Chapel. They contain a truly unexpected surprise, namely, interments beneath stone ledgers in the floors.
The Chapel itself is three stories high and has a columbarium just inside the bronze entry doors. The basement of the building contains three retorts, two of which Kircher had installed at the time of the Chapel’s construction. Montrose has served as both a cemetery and a crematorium since its founding.
The grounds are a veritable smorgasbord of diversity including Serbian, Russian, Korean, Japanese, Latino and even Gypsy monuments. A number of families have memorialized their loved ones with ornately embellished headstones, some featuring images of the deceased. One of the most interesting of these belongs to the Pavlov family, an enormous black granite stele etched with the full colour images of Papin and Nikola Pavlov. The couple stand side by side beneath a cloudy sky and crescent moon, each holding a smoking cigarette in their left hands. Fascinating.
Another monument of note is that of Pastor Gotthilf Lambrecht of Saint Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. A beautifully carved image of Lambrecht in his clerical robes, holding a Bible in his left hand, stands beside a stone podium bearing the following inscription:
Er War Ein Bote Gottes
To the best of our knowledge, the German translates to “One of God’s Messengers.”
In a newer section of the cemetery stands “Erica’s Angel,” a life-sized, privately commissioned bronze executed by Young Fine Art Studio. The sculpture commemorates the death of a child and depicts an angel beginning his ascent from the earth, eyes turned heavenward. His left hand clasps that of a young girl whose feet are, for the moment, still firmly planted on the ground. She smiles brightly and waves her free hand as if offering assurance that she is well to the loved ones she is leaving behind.
Perhaps the most famous monument at Montrose is the Iroquois Theatre Fire memorial. The large, diamond-shaped stone near the cemetery entrance is inscribed as follows:
to the memory of
600 people who perished
in the Iroquois Theatre fire
Dec. 30, 1903. Erected by the
The theatre, described in the Chicago Tribune as “a virtual temple of beauty,” was billed to be “absolutely fireproof.” How ironic then, that the theatre was completely destroyed in a blaze which engulfed it a mere five weeks after its opening. The tragic tale of the fire, its cause, results and aftermath is too involved to recount here. We assure you it is both horrific and fascinating and encourage you to research further on your own, and, when visiting Montrose, stop to pay tribute to the lost at the Iroquois Theatre Fire Memorial.
Chicago is a city rich with burial grounds. Montrose, in fact, is one of three which lie adjacent to each other in this tiny quadrant of the city alone. Though worthy of exploration and most assuredly scoring higher marks than Saint Luke’s directly to the south, Montrose still pales in comparison to Bohemian National just across North Pulaski Road. By all means, though, when in the area take some time to visit and, if possible, call ahead to ensure you are able to explore the Chapel.