Among the oldest cemeteries in the Chicago area, this 120-acre burial ground lies on the shore of Lake Michigan. The first cemeteries in Chicago were established in the 1830s, and, in 1843, the 60-acre “City Cemetery” was founded north of the Chicago River near the Green Bay beach ridge. In 1859, Dr. John Rauch warned city officials that burying the dead near the lake could contaminate the drinking-water supply. That same year, Calvary Cemetery (nine miles north of City Cemetery) was opened on a 40-acre plot purchased by the Diocese of Chicago in 1851. In 1866, bodies were exhumed from City Cemetery (that land would become Lincoln Park) and relocated to Rose Hill, Graceland, Oak Woods, and Calvary.
By 1885, burials at Calvary numbered more than 20,000, most of whom were of Irish descent, and the acquisition of additional land was required. The rectangular plot, with the long axis running perpendicular to the lakeshore, occupies a leveled parcel of land flanked on the north and south by residential neighborhoods and, to the west, railroad tracks. A straight road runs east-west down the center of the cemetery, with stone gates providing vehicular access on both ends. Several interconnected roads branch off the main axis, dividing the large expanse into smaller, rectangular sections. Orderly rows of crosses, statues, and mausoleums mark the burials, with a number of hand-carved stone monuments in the shape of tree stumps commemorating members of the Woodmen of the World fraternal organization. While many elms succumbed in the 1960s, today the cemetery is shaded by a diverse collection of mature canopy trees.