Eternal Chicago (and its history) through the photographs of Larry Broutman

Eternal Chicago (and its history) through the photographs of Larry Broutman

Below is a photograph I found on the internet even though I wasn't looking for it.  I didn't even know it existed.  I was googling my dad--and the gravestone of my great-grandfather, who had the same name, came up.


My dad died on my 65th birthday, December 26, 2015.  The day I officially became a senior citizen.  And from examining this picture, I found out that my dad's grandfather died on the very same day in 1922!  The death of my great-grandfather, my birth, and my dad's death were all on the same day in 1922, 1950 and 2015, respectively.

Why was this picture on the internet to begin with?  Apparently, there are people who roam through cemeteries snapping away, putting their photos online, along with details about the cemetery that houses their interesting finds.

About the same time I found this picture, Lake Claremont Press sent me the book Chicago Eternal by Larry Broutman--for my review.  A retired plastics engineer, Broutman has devoted the last 5 years to researching and photographing Chicago area cemeteries.

When the book was delivered (complete with 3D glasses for viewing some of the photos), I could barely lift it from my porch into the house.  I put it on a strong chair because even though it's the ephemeral coffee table book, I didn't think my coffee table would hold it.

I decided to sit down and peruse every page (the pictures and text are from 33 cemeteries) to see exactly what Broutman saw, and to figure out what inspired him to pull this huge book together.  He points out in the forward that cemeteries serve more purposes than the obvious; they are quiet retreats, recreational areas and a place to do research and learn about the past.

He starts out with the Couch tomb--the only remnant left from the old City Cemetery--which predated the area that we now know as Lincoln Park. And ends 300-plus pages later with a plaque commemorating indigent mental patients who had been housed at a county asylum (built in 1869) and who were buried in a potter's field called The Cook County Cemetery on the far northwest side.  That cemetery began in 1854 and had 38,000 people buried in it--but has since been covered over with condos, parking lots and other developments.

The beauty of this book is this:  its gravestones and cemeteries tell the history of Chicago.  Each cemetery included has a Chicago story of its own. Generally, an ethnic group that wanted to branch off into its own heavenly hinterland.  And for the most part, those who built Chicago, or made Chicago famous in business and the arts, the rich, the poor, the abused and the notorious criminals are all represented.

A conglomeration of famous architects just happen to be buried at Graceland, on Chicago's north side.  Others have conglomerations of mobsters.  Many have war memorials from various wars--including one 9/11 memorial.  Members of the Leopold, Loeb and Franks families are all buried at  Rosehill.  All connected painfully through eternity.

Perusing this heavy--and very beautiful picture book--with lots of text about the people buried here and there and/or the gravestones themselves, the connections between the hearts and minds of Chicagoans through the years, by family, good works and bad deeds--tells the story of the city in a unique and sometimes twisted way.  Till, Capone, Burnham, Adler, Sullivan, Daley, O'Leary, Byrne, Ernie Banks, Mike Todd, oh, our crazy, interesting and often infamous city!

For $50 and a sturdy place to put the book, in one way or another any reader taking it in will see Chicago's industry, Chicago's beauty, Chicago's mischief and Chicago's big shoulders.

And all proceeds from the sale of the book go to charity.

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Tags: Lewis Taman

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