Archive for the ‘tomb’ Tag

Wainwright Tomb, St. Louis

Louis Sullivan designed three tombs, two in Graceland Cemetery in Chicago (and one of his designs went into his own tombstone in Chicago). The third, the Wainwright Tomb, is in historic Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, an oasis of calm in the city’s rather rough north side.

Commissioned on the occasion of Ellis Wainwright’s wife’s untimely death, and completed in 1892, the overall plan is a severely simple design, with a small terrace, and the tomb itself, capped with an un-ornamented dome. The ornamentation is some of Sullivan’s best. The interior is full of spectacular mosaics and very colorful, but I didn’t get to go inside, as it’s opened only on rare occasions. The materials and ornamentation are similar to the Getty Tomb in Chicago, although quite different in overall plan and shape.

Wainwright Tomb, front facade

Wainwright Tomb, front facade

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Ornamentation detail

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Terrace, door, and dome

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Door, detail

Outside of Chicago, St. Louis has three designs by Sullivan, with the landmark Wainwright Building downtown, the heavily modified 705 Olive St. Building, and the Wainwright Tomb.

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Getty and Ryerson Tombs, Graceland Cemetery, Chicago

These are two tombs designed in very different styles by Louis Sullivan at the turn of the 1890s, located about 500 feet apart in Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery.

The Ryerson Tomb (1889) borrows from ancient Egypt, and unlike Sullivan’s buildings, is a polished dark gray granite structure that portrays a sense of timelessness, by reflecting its surroundings. Sullivan’s famed decoration is minimal here, limited to the entryway, and even that is quite restrained. It’s pure Sullivan, however, and while the structure itself is Egyptian-inspired, the decoration isn’t. It’s probably best appreciated towards sunset, when the sun reflects off of the main entrance and the granite mirrors the immediate surroundings.

Ryerson Tomb, detail

Ryerson Tomb at sunset

The Getty Tomb (1890) couldn’t be more different, it’s made of intricately carved sandstone, with bronze doors that have acquired a rich turquoise patina over the years, and is one of Sullivan’s greatest decorative efforts. Less visible is the main door to the tomb, which is a bit difficult to photograph, but is extraordinarily richly decorated. The structure also marks the beginning of Sullivan’s mature decoration, his previous structures being relatively restrained (maybe also because they were generally lower budget residential and small commercial commissions). The structure is contemporary with the Auditorium Building and other large Adler and Sullivan commissions, like the Stock Exchange, Wainwright, and Schiller buildings. The Getty Tomb is freed from the constraints of commercial and residential design, and it was remarked that Sullivan planned the work in full-scale drawings. Even the perennially picky Frank Lloyd Wright was particularly fond of this structure: ” Fine sculpture. . . A great poem. . . Outside of the realm of music what finer requiem.

Getty Tomb, front elevation

Getty Tomb, side elevation

Front gates, detail, note decoration on the main door behind