This 350-acre cemetery was founded in 1859 and is one of the earliest and largest non-sectarian, private cemeteries in Chicago. Its opening coincided with the cessation of sales of lots in the City Cemetery; City Cemetery was remade into Lincoln Park in 1869, and many of the exhumed graves were relocated to Rosehill Cemetery two years earlier.
Landscape Gardener William Saunders was hired to design the cemetery. It features a picturesque setting complete with four constructed water features, prominences built upon a natural gravel ridge, swaths of generous lawn, plantations of deciduous and evergreen trees, and exotic plantings. A woodland area occupies the northwest corner of the cemetery. Curvilinear roads and paths diverge in a web-like pattern, subdividing the site into smaller parcels, with three larger round-abouts with central greens along the eastern side. The castellated, limestone entrance gate and building was designed by William W. Boyington, while Joseph Silsbee designed the Romanesque May Chapel. The entrance gate was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.