Friday, September 13, 2013

Carrie Eliza Getty Mausoleum

Carrie Eliza Getty Mausoleum, 1890
Louis H. Sullivan
Graceland Cemetery
Near northwest corner of lake
4001 North Clark Street

            Considered to be an early and entirely successful example of “modern architecture,” this monument stands apart, both literally and figuratively. Located on a small triangle of land on the north side of the cemetery, it belongs in a league of its own in terms of historical and architectural significance. In addition to being designated as a city landmark in 1971 and being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, Frank Lloyd Wright described it as “a piece of sculpture, a statue, a great poem.” In his quest to establish an “Architecture natural, truthful and wholesome, such as should characterize a truly democratic people,” Architect Louis H. Sullivan (1856-1924) rejected the Beaux-Arts approach taken by Daniel Burnham at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and the historical revivals that relied upon classical or medieval motifs in favor of his own imagination, sense of proportion and interest in organic decorative forms.
            The perfectly proportioned limestone cube is divided visually into a smooth bottom half and a top half adorned with shallow octagons containing eight-pointed star designs. The arch above the elaborate bronze doors, containing the name “Getty,” features smooth bands alternating with ones featuring leaf or floral forms. The top of the cornice, on the front and back, is straight, while the sides feature a repeated curving line. The bronze gates include the eight-pointed  stars interwoven with floral and geometric forms, while the medallion on the side window includes Getty’s initials. The design of the bronze door behind the gates, when shown as a plaster cast in 1900 at the Paris Exposition, won Sullivan an award.
            Henry Harrison Getty (1838-1920), a lumber merchant and partner of Martin Ryerson, commissioned this tomb for his wife, Carrie. He was later buried here, along with their only daughter Alice, who died in 1946.

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