WBEZ | cemeteries http://www.wbez.org/tags/cemeteries Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en In Chicago, eternal rest ain't so eternal http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-eternal-rest-aint-so-eternal-112210 <p><p>This year, for the first time ever, Americans&rsquo; preference for cremation will surpass their preference for burial, <a href="http://nfda.org/about-funeral-service-/trends-and-statistics.html#CF" target="_blank">according to industry surveys conducted by the National Funeral Directors Association</a>. That means that up until this point, most Americans expected to be buried. And they expected to stay that way. Forever. And they had the graves to prove it. The sheer number of cemeteries and their solid, long-lasting headstones, monuments and mausoleums testify to the strength of a cultural norm: most of us are destined for a final resting place.</p><p>But archaeologist David Keene says Chicago-area cemeteries &mdash; and the human remains within them &mdash; are less permanent than most of us think.</p><p>&ldquo;We put expensive, well-crafted monuments on top of graves that last longer than any of us will,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So, cemeteries look like they&rsquo;re there forever. But &hellip; they&rsquo;re not.&rdquo;</p><p>It didn&rsquo;t take long for Chicago to move its dead around. Take early settler John Kinzie, for example. He was first buried in the cemetery behind Fort Dearborn, and had been dug up and reburied in <em>two </em>other cemeteries before landing in his <em>final </em>&ldquo;final resting place&rdquo; in Graceland Cemetery in the 1860s. Cemeteries are still prone to relocation, for much of the same reason they always were: Dead people are simply in the way of the living.</p><p>The idea of relocating the dead for the sake of modern demands and development doesn&rsquo;t phase Oak Park native Samantha Kearney, who has a masters degree in urban planning. She&rsquo;s well aware of Chicago&rsquo;s history of cemetery relocation, but wanted to hear about the most notable examples. So, she sent Curious City this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>There are thousands of bodies buried in Lincoln Park. How many people realize this and what other neighborhoods have similar histories?</em></p><p>Below, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-eternal-rest-aint-so-eternal-112210#list">we list repurposed cemeteries and cemetery relocation projects</a> that span from the city&rsquo;s early days &mdash; when bodies were obstacles to more park space and a clean water supply &mdash; up until just a few years ago, when bodies were in the way of a new runway at O&rsquo;Hare.</p><p>If you track these funerary shuffles, it&rsquo;s easy to conclude that Keene&rsquo;s right: Final resting places may not be so final. But you also conclude there&rsquo;s a case to be made for better planning when it comes to moving the dead around. So, before we jump into our list, here&rsquo;s something to think about from Melody Carvajal, who manages cemetery relocations for a living.</p><p>&ldquo;This is not a textbook,&rdquo; Carvajal says. &ldquo;There has to be a way of doing it right. You have to sit and talk with the families for hours. &hellip; That&rsquo;s okay. It&rsquo;s okay to hear the emotion.&rdquo;</p><p>Carvajal says she&rsquo;s seen a number of cemetery relocation projects go awry, so she&rsquo;s advocating for some industry standards. Among other recommendations: Relocation project planners should conduct genealogy, research the cemetery&rsquo;s history, and, above all, reach out to surviving family members.</p><p>Carvajal says adopting such standards would allow everyone to evaluate the cemetery relocation process, for which there are currently no set standards. And if Carvajal is right about the increasing inevitability of relocating cemeteries that clash with the plans of modern developers, it&rsquo;s necessary to ask: How do we plan for that?</p><p><a name="list"></a>With that, here&rsquo;s a glimpse of some of Chicago&rsquo;s repurposed or relocated cemeteries &mdash; the famous, the forgotten, and the tucked away.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lincoln%20park%20small.png" style="height: 370px; width: 620px;" title="(Source: Google Earth with overlay map of Lincoln Park in 1863, from IJ Bryan's History of Lincoln Park, 1899 " /></div><div><strong><span style="font-size:18px;">Lincoln Park</span></strong></div><div><strong>Formerly:</strong> Chicago City Cemetery</div><div><strong>When:</strong> 1840s-1860s</div><div><strong>Burials:</strong> 35,000</div><div><strong>Remaining:</strong> 10,000 - 12,000</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><p>Lincoln Park is Chicago&rsquo;s poster child of cemetery relocations. Burials in the City Cemetery, which spanned along the lakefront from North Avenue to Wisconsin Street., began in 1843, after the city relocated two smaller cemeteries on the northern and southern ends of town. The city owned the cemetery and it was run by the City Sexton, a public official who maintained the land and managed sales of burial plots.</p><p>By the mid-1850s, things were not going well. Chicago&rsquo;s population (of both the living and the dead) had exploded, and there were accusations that the City Sexton had kind of let the City Cemetery go. Newspapers noted caskets emerging from the sandy ground, and the area reeked of death. Dr. John H. Rauch theorized that the &ldquo;rising miasma&rdquo; exuded by the deceased could become a city-wide health threat. Many people believed him.</p><p>Also, residents started to value green space more than burial space. Prominent Chicagoans routinely petitioned that the cemetery be either improved or removed; one consistent suggestion was to convert the cemetery into a park. The city finally agreed to close the cemetery in the early 1860s and planned to relocate graves to the newly-opened &ldquo;rural&rdquo; cemeteries of Rosehill, Graceland and Oak Woods.</p><p>That work was never fully completed. At its height, about 35,000 people were buried in the City Cemetery.&nbsp;Pamela Bannos, an artist and professor at Northwestern University who&#39;s conducted extensive research on the cemetery in her project, <a href="http://hiddentruths.northwestern.edu/" target="_blank">Hidden Truths</a>,&nbsp;estimates that between 10,000 and 12,000 bodies remained in the park by the time the last cemetery lot exchange costs were recorded in 1886.</p><p>The remaining dead included many of those buried in the city&rsquo;s potter&rsquo;s field, land reserved for the burial of the unknown and indigent. That area also contains thousands of other unidentified victims of cholera and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.</p><p>In 1869, the Lincoln Park Commissioners took on the job of creating the park and parade grounds the citizenry petitioned for. They ran into corpses as the work progressed and continued to do so for decades to come.&nbsp;To this day, construction in the park (say, for new parking lots)&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/a-conservatory-a-zoo-and-12000-corpses/Content?oid=1109775">raises the prospect of unearthing the dead.</a></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/dunning%20google%20map%20SMALL.png" style="height: 370px; width: 620px;" title="(Source: Google Earth with overlay of map of human remains findings, courtesy David Keene)" /></div><p><strong><span style="font-size:18px;">Dunning Square Shopping Center, housing development</span></strong></p><p><strong>Formerly:</strong> Cook County Infirmary, Cook County Insane Asylum</p><p><strong>When: </strong>1854-1911</p><p><strong>Burials:</strong> 38,000</p><p>Another neighborhood that has a similar history to Lincoln Park is Dunning, on Chicago&rsquo;s northwest side. In fact, some of the bodies disinterred from the potter&rsquo;s field in Lincoln Park ended up here.</p><p>In the 1850s, the 320 acres of land between Irving Park Road and Montrose Avenue, and west to Oak Park Avenue was known as Dunning. It included the Cook County Infirmary, a &ldquo;poor farm&rdquo; and almshouse, and the Cook County Insane Asylum, both horrific places by all accounts. Many of the people who ended up at Dunning were poor and mentally ill, and often abused by the hospital staff.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/story-dunning-tomb-living-106892" target="_blank"><strong><em>See:&nbsp;</em></strong></a><strong><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/story-dunning-tomb-living-106892">The story of Dunning, a &lsquo;tomb for the living&rsquo;</a></em></strong></p><p>There were at least three burial grounds at Dunning intended for poorhouse residents and asylum inmates, but also accessible by anyone in Cook Cook County whose family couldn&rsquo;t afford to pay for traditional cemetery burial. It&rsquo;s estimated that between 1854 and 1911, 38,000 people were buried there. Records of the dead&rsquo;s identities and locations were poorly kept, and many were either lost or destroyed by the time the place closed in the 1970s.</p><p>The state sold off the property to developers. Over the years, it&rsquo;s been common for construction projects to run into a corpse or two. In 1989, a backhoe operator accidentally split a corpse in half while doing work on a new housing project. The corpse appeared to be a red-headed Civil War soldier buried in his uniform, according to Chicago archaeologist David Keene, who was called to the scene.</p><p>A year later, when the construction of Wright College began on the grounds, Keene says he found human remains scattered just about everywhere. After a number of excavations, Keene pieced together the location of a 5-acre cemetery on the corner of Belle Plaine and Neenah Aves. Today, that&rsquo;s Read-Dunning Memorial Park, the only vestige of the history of the original complex. The remaining area gave way to Dunning Square shopping center, which contains a Jewel store, the campus of Wright College, the Maryville Center for Children, along with housing and condominium developments.</p><p>In the spring of 2015, city workers were concerned that <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-dunning-cemetery-road-construction-met-20150429-story.html" target="_blank">road construction in the Dunning area would uncover bodies</a>, enough that the <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20150518/dunning/city-use-ground-penetrating-radar-search-for-long-forgotten-bodies" target="_blank">city postponed the work until ground-penetrating radar could locate them</a>.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/oak%20forest%20grounds%20SMALL.png" style="height: 370px; width: 620px;" title="(Source: Google Earth with overlay of Oak Forest Infirmary grounds map from 1916)" /></div><p><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>Oak Forest Health Center, Oak Forest Heritage Preserve</strong></span></p><p><strong>Formerly:</strong> Cook County Cemetery at Oak Forest</p><p><strong>When:</strong> 1911-1971</p><p><strong>Burials: </strong>90,740</p><p>Today&rsquo;s Oak Forest Health Center, located 22 miles southwest of Chicago, opened in 1910 as the Cook County Work Farm/Oak Forest Infirmary, a huge facility that, in addition to a hospital, contained a tuberculosis treatment center, a cottage colony, a fruit orchard, baseball grounds and &hellip; three cemeteries.</p><p>One of them, St. Gabriel Cemetery, was reserved for indigent Catholic patients of the hospital, and, today, contains no visible grave markers, aside from a dirt road that circles a statue of St. Francis of Assisi. The area is currently undeveloped and supervised by nearby St. Casimir Cemetery. &nbsp;</p><p>The other two cemeteries on the premises were owned by Cook County, and they served as burial grounds for the indigent, following the closure of the grounds at Dunning. Between 1911 to 1971, 90,740 people were buried there, estimates Barry Fleig, who runs a <a href="http://cookcountycemetery.com/OakForest.htm?" target="_blank">website dedicated to both Dunning and Oak Forest</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>By 1923, the poor conditions of the County cemetery, located in the Northeast corner of the hospital grounds, were apparent. &ldquo;This unsightly and barren area would be more in harmony with the rest of our Institutional premises if converted into a well kept and attractive park with the adornments of trees, shrubbery, flowers, and intersected with convenient walks and driveways,&rdquo; wrote Anton J. Cermak in Cook County Infirmary&rsquo;s annual report in 1923.</p><p>The county wouldn&rsquo;t take the suggestion until 2012, when the Cook County Forest Preserve District unveiled plans to convert the area into a 176-acre park, complete with bike trails, a visitors center, and interpretive signage that would nod to the area&rsquo;s history. However, those plans were temporarily halted after construction crews <a href="http://abc7chicago.com/news/century-old-oak-forest-graves-dug-up-by-forest-preserve-crews-/382661/" target="_blank">dug up hundreds of human bones while attempting to build the new trail system</a>.</p><p>Today, those plans are still in the works. The bones were simply reburied. According to the <a href="http://fpdcc.com/downloads/OakForestHeritagePreserve-MasterPlan.pdf">Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan</a>, the area of the &ldquo;historic cemetery&rdquo; will feature native grasses and prairie vegetation in a grid formation that vaguely alludes to the plats of bodies that lie beneath.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/von%20zirngibl%20topper2.png" style="height: 240px; width: 620px;" title="(Source: Google Earth, Flickr/Zol87)" /></div><p><strong><span style="font-size:18px;">Sims Metal Management, Limited</span></strong></p><p><strong>Contains</strong>: The lone grave of Andreas von Zirngibl</p><p><strong>When: </strong>1850s (approx) - present</p><p><strong>Burials:</strong> Definitely one, maybe more</p><p>The story of why there&rsquo;s a single grave nestled in the middle of a South Side junkyard is a bit of a Chicago legend. Yes, there is a tombstone that marks the one-armed body of Andreas von Zirngibl, a Bavarian native who fought Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. It&#39;s located at 9331 S. Ewing Ave, right in the middle of a metal and electronics recycling site.</p><p>According to testimony from the von Zirngibl descendents in their <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=Mt7-q82AB0YC&amp;pg=PA431&amp;lpg=PA431&amp;dq=Zirngibl+et+al+v.+Calumet+%26+C.+Canal+%26+Dock+Co.+et+al&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=6pl77UzPeV&amp;sig=aQWcYa9GOY2LvRZ4w6EonhzFlW4&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=9LaBVen-CZO5oQTUl4vwBw&amp;ved=0CCYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&amp;q=Zirngibl%20et%20al%20v.%20Calumet%20%26%20C.%20Canal%20%26%20Dock%20Co.%20et%20al&amp;f=false">1895 Illinois Supreme Court case</a> against the Calumet and Chicago Canal and Dock Co., which formerly owned the property, von Zirngibl bought 40 acres of land near the mouth of the Calumet River in 1854. He lived and fished there until he died of a fever in 1855.</p><p>The family says his last wish was to be buried on his homestead. <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1999-05-31/features/9905310107_1_von-grave-site-lake-michigan">As the story goes</a>, they buried his body on the site, marked off the small platt with a white picket fence, and visited him from time to time.</p><p>By the late 1890s, the Canal and Dock company had purchased the land independently, seemingly without much fuss or notice from the Zirngibls (they had dropped the &ldquo;von&rdquo; by this time). But somehow or another, the family learned of the purchase, took the company to court, and told the judges that their deed to the land (now worth millions of dollars) was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire.</p><p>Needless to say, the family couldn&rsquo;t prove they owned the land, but they also couldn&rsquo;t prove they <em>didn&rsquo;t </em>own the land. As a compromise, the court ruled the Zirngibls could keep the area within the white picket fence surrounding the resting place of their family member, but the rest of the land rightfully belonged to the Canal and Dock company.</p><p>Today, the area is owned by Sims Metal Management Limited, and is a visible reminder of the human capacity to resist moving the dead at all costs, even in the face of development &hellip; and even if it doesn&rsquo;t work out so well.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/OHARE%20embed.png" style="height: 370px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p><strong><span style="font-size:18px;">O&rsquo;Hare Airport&rsquo;s western runway</span></strong></p><p><strong>Formerly:</strong> St. Johannes Cemetery</p><p><strong>When</strong>: 1837-2013</p><p><strong>Burials:</strong> 1,200 (approx)</p><p><strong>Remaining:</strong> 0</p><p>A high-profile cemetery relocation happened just a few years ago at O&rsquo;Hare International Airport. The O&rsquo;Hare modernization project included several new runways, one of which was platted right over a St. Johannes Cemetery.</p><p>Established in 1837, the small cemetery was located on the western edge of the airport. It spanned five acres and contained about 1,200 graves. It primarily served the congregation of a church that once stood on the grounds.</p><p>The relocation project took about five years to complete, and raised the ire of nearby residents and church congregations, who argued the cemetery shouldn&rsquo;t be moved in the name of progress.</p><p>The runway was built anyway, and when it opened, the descendants of the relocated dead were invited to march down the runway to commemorate St. Johannes. No official memorial marks the landscape today.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Samantha%20K-22.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 200px; float: left;" title="Questioner Samantha Kearney at a Curious City live event at DePaul University, where we discussed her question. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" /><strong><span style="font-size:18px;">About our questioner</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr">An Oak Park native, Samantha Kearney says she&rsquo;s committed to historic preservation, and that carries over as in interest in place through time. The idea of cemeteries as seemingly indestructible institutions fits the bill.</p><p dir="ltr">With a masters degree in urban planning and policy, Kearney rightly suspected that the Lincoln Park cemetery relocation wasn&rsquo;t a one-time phenomena, and that there must&rsquo;ve been other Chicago neighborhoods with similar histories.</p><p dir="ltr">Now that she&rsquo;s taken in our findings and all this talk about cemetery relocation and moving bodies around, Kearney brings up a good reminder: A final resting place doesn&rsquo;t have to be physical.</p><p dir="ltr"><a name="map"></a>&ldquo;Our final resting place is in the hearts and minds of the people we inspire,&rdquo; she says.</p><p><em>Logan Jaffe is Curious City&#39;s multimedia producer. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">@loganjaffe</a>.</em></p><p><em><iframe height="460" src="https://www.google.com/maps/d/embed?mid=zD1cveoHRWh8.k3Jk8KXmKHDk" width="620"></iframe></em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 17 Jun 2015 19:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-eternal-rest-aint-so-eternal-112210 The story of Dunning, a 'tomb for the living' http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/story-dunning-tomb-living-106892 <p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/g3l7YoGhlbM" width="560"></iframe></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/109749351&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>For a long time, Chicagoans were scared of Dunning. The very name &ldquo;Dunning&rdquo; gave them chills. People were afraid they would end up in <em>that </em>place.</p><p>Today, the Chicago neighborhood, out on the city&rsquo;s Far Northwest Side, looks like a middle-class suburb. &ldquo;If peace and quiet are what you seek, look no further than Dunning,&rdquo; the Chicago Tribune wrote in 2009. Some of the area&rsquo;s younger residents have no idea what used to be there: an insane asylum, a home for the city&rsquo;s poorest people, and cemeteries where the poor were buried.</p><p>&ldquo;I grew up in this area,&rdquo; says Michael Dotson, who is 29. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve passed by this vicinity a hundred times, and never knew anything about it.&rdquo; Dotson recently stumbled across a website that mentioned the old Dunning asylum. And then he saw a headline claiming that 38,000 bodies might be lying underneath the old Dunning grounds, their burial places unmarked.</p><p>That prompted Dotson to pose this question to Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr"><em>What&rsquo;s the history behind Cook County&rsquo;s former Dunning Insane Asylum and the people buried near there?</em></p><p>It&rsquo;s a long history with many dark chapters. Curious City can&rsquo;t detail the entire history, so we focused on finding out who lived at Dunning &mdash;&nbsp;and who is still lying in Dunning&rsquo;s unmarked graves. In both life and death, the people who ended up at Dunning were some of Chicago&rsquo;s least fortunate residents.</p><p dir="ltr">Here&rsquo;s how historian Perry Duis describes Dunning&rsquo;s reputation in his 1998 book &ldquo;<a href="http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/57zms8wb9780252074158.html">Challenging Chicago</a>&rdquo;:</p><p><em>For many generations of Chicago children, bad behavior came to a halt with a stern warning: &ldquo;Be careful, or you&rsquo;re going to Dunning.&rdquo; The prospect sent shivers down the spines of youngsters, who regarded it as the most dreaded place imaginable.</em></p><p>Chicago resident Steven Hill, who is 60, recalls: &ldquo;It was a term used in the &rsquo;50s and &rsquo;60s &mdash; &lsquo;If you and your brothers and sisters don&rsquo;t behave, we&rsquo;ll send you to Dunning.&rsquo; And that used to scare kids, because they knew that it was a mental institution.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1800s-asylum.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: right; height: 194px; width: 285px;" title="The Cook County Insane Asylum at Dunning in the late 1800s." />Mundelein resident Ross Goodrich, who is 81, heard a similar expression growing up on the West Side in the 1930s and &rsquo;40s. &ldquo;Whenever anyone would act a little nutsy, any of the kids, we&rsquo;d say, &lsquo;Oh, gotta send them to Dunning.&rsquo; It was a pretty common expression,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Hill and Goodrich are interested in the history of Dunning because both of them had great-grandparents who died in the institution in the early 1900s.</p><p>The complex occupied 320 acres of land between Irving Park Road and Montrose Avenue, stretching west from Naragansett Avenue to Oak Park Avenue.</p><p>It was never actually named Dunning. But the property just south of it was owned by the Dunning family &mdash; so when the Chicago, Milwaukee &amp; St. Paul Railway extended a line to the area in 1882, the stop was named Dunning Station. And then people started calling the institution &ldquo;Dunning.&rdquo; (In its early years, people sometimes called it &ldquo;Jefferson,&rdquo; since it&rsquo;s part of Jefferson Township.)</p><p>When it opened in 1854, it wasn&rsquo;t an insane asylum. The Cook County Infirmary was a &ldquo;poor farm&rdquo; and almshouse. County officials opened its doors to people who had fallen on hard times and found themselves unable to earn a living.</p><p>&ldquo;They didn&rsquo;t provide very many services,&rdquo; says Joseph J. Mehr, a Springfield clinical psychologist who wrote about Dunning in his 2002 book, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Illustrated-History-Illinois-Services-1847-2000/dp/1553952154">An Illustrated History of Illinois Public Mental Health Services</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;What they really provided were a place to sleep and food,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And that was pretty much the extent of it.&rdquo;</p><p>But from the very beginning, many of the poor people who were sent to live at the almshouse had mental illnesses. &ldquo;In some ways, it&rsquo;s almost similar to what we have today,&rdquo; Mehr says, &ldquo;in that we have a lot of people who are homeless and living on the streets, and a significant portion of them are people who are mentally ill.&rdquo;</p><p>So the county added an &ldquo;Insane Department&rdquo; at the almshouse. And then, in 1870, it built a separate Cook County Insane Asylum on the grounds.</p><p>&ldquo;The feeling was it&rsquo;s better to isolate the population of the mentally handicapped, the indigent, and keep them far away from the city proper,&rdquo; Chicago historian Richard C. Lindberg says.</p><p>But Mehr sees another motivation behind the asylum&rsquo;s location, far from downtown Chicago. &ldquo;The idea was to get people who were disturbed out of stress-inducing situations,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Asylums were built out in the country, and they were really pastoral, bucolic places where people could relax.&rdquo;</p><p>That was the idea, anyway. In reality, Dunning was chronically overcrowded, and patients were neglected and abused.</p><p>&ldquo;You could think of this place as the prototypical evil dark asylum of literature,&rdquo; Mehr says. &ldquo;There wasn&rsquo;t much treatment. People &hellip; weren&rsquo;t fed well. The food was terrible &mdash; weevil-filled. &hellip; People didn&rsquo;t get the kind of medical care that they ought to get. &hellip; For many, many years, it was really a terrible place.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Abuse and corruption</strong></p><p>In 1874, a Tribune reporter described Dunning&rsquo;s poorhouse as &ldquo;a shambling, helter-skelter series of wooden buildings&rdquo; where dejected-looking people with matted hair and tattered clothing were &ldquo;crowded and herded together like sheep in the shambles, or hogs in the slaughtering-pens.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;The rooms swarm with vermin,&rdquo; an attendant told the reporter. &ldquo;The cots and bed-clothing are literally alive with them. We cannot keep the men clean, and we cannot drive the parasites away unless they are clean.&rdquo;</p><p>The reporter couldn&rsquo;t take the smell in the room, exclaiming: &ldquo;For Heaven&rsquo;s sake let us get out; this stench is unbearable.&rdquo;</p><p>Political corruption was part of the problem at Dunning. County officials treated it as a patronage haven, hiring pals and cronies who had no expertise in handling mental patients. Employees got drunk on duty, partying and dancing late at night in the asylum. Some of the asylum&rsquo;s top authorities used taxpayer money to decorate their offices and hold lavish parties while patients were suffering in squalor.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Everybody was a political hiree,&rdquo; says Al Opitz, a neighborhood historian. &ldquo;So consequently, they had nobody to report to other than the political boss.&rdquo;</p><p>In an 1889 court case, Cook County Judge Richard Prendergast described Dunning as &ldquo;a tomb for the living.&rdquo; He criticized the asylum for squeezing 1,000 patients into a space better suited for 500. &ldquo;The presence of so many lunatics in a room irritates all,&rdquo; Prendergast said. &ldquo;Fighting among the patients at night is frequent.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/dunning-residents-01091898-chicago-inter-ocean.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 263px; width: 200px;" title="An artist’s depiction of residents inside Dunning, published in 1898 in the Chicago Inter Ocean newspaper." />That same year, two attendants at the Dunning asylum were charged with murdering patient Robert Burns. They&rsquo;d kicked him in the stomach and given him a gash on the head. A defense attorney claimed these &ldquo;blows and kicks &hellip; were beneficial to the insane man, as they were a sort of stimulus or tonic,&rdquo; according to the Tribune. Jurors acquitted the attendants, blaming Dunning&rsquo;s overcrowding rather than the actions of individual employees.</p><p>Even under the best of conditions, doctors didn&rsquo;t have many effective treatments for people suffering from mental illness. The only drugs they had at their disposal were sedatives. &ldquo;If a person was terribly agitated, they might dose them with chloral hydrate, which would pretty much knock them out,&rdquo; Mehr says. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s the ingredient in what used to be called a Mickey Finn in a bar.&rdquo;</p><p>According to <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=pdcSAQAAMAAJ&amp;printsec=frontcover&amp;source=gbs_ge_summary_r&amp;cad=0#v=onepage&amp;q&amp;f=false">an 1886 state investigation</a>, one of the sedatives used at Dunning was a mixture containing chloral hydrate as well as cannabis, hops and potash. The investigation also found that Dunning was serving two kegs of beer a day; patients as well as employees were apparently drinking the beer.</p><p>The same state probe harshly criticized the food Dunning served to its inmates. A lack of fruit and fresh vegetables had caused an epidemic of scurvy, with about 200 patients suffering from the illness. &ldquo;The cooking, we are convinced, was bad,&rdquo; the investigators said.</p><p>In spite of all their appalling discoveries, the investigators quoted one doctor who said &ldquo;there were some attendants who were most excellent, who were conscientious, and endeavored to mitigate the sufferings of the insane in every way possible.&rdquo; But these employees were in the minority, and they felt intimidated by Dunning&rsquo;s irresponsible workers.</p><p>The situation inside the Dunning poorhouse seemed somewhat better by 1892. A journalist who visited that year didn&rsquo;t encounter the same horrors others had witnessed in earlier times. But she reported that many of the poorhouse residents were &ldquo;too old and infirm to do anything except sit about in joyless groups.&rdquo; The superintendent told her that many people ended up in the poorhouse as a result of alcoholism. &ldquo;Whisky brings the most of them,&rdquo; he said, adding, &ldquo;They&rsquo;re foreigners mostly.&rdquo;</p><p><strong><a name="deck1"></a>Insanity cases in the news</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In that era, Chicago newspapers often reported the stories of local people suffering from mental illness, openly describing their symptoms and sometimes publishing their names. In many of these stories, patients were taken first to the Cook County Detention Hospital (at the northwest corner of Polk and Wood streets), where judges ordered them committed at Dunning.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s a sample of several cases reported in 1897:</p><blockquote><ul dir="ltr"><li style=""><em><strong>Frank Johnson</strong> was committed to Dunning after he cut off his right hand in a fit of religious mania. &ldquo;I think he will grow again,&rdquo; he told a judge.</em></li><li style=""><em><strong>John E.N.</strong>, 28, believed he was Jesus Christ.</em></li><li style=""><em><strong>Timothy O&rsquo;B.</strong> became &ldquo;a raving maniac&rdquo; after a policeman struck him in the head.</em></li><li style=""><em><strong>William Mitchell</strong>, 43, an extremely emaciated African-American man, said he was hearing &ldquo;the voices of spirits&rdquo; and believed that people were &ldquo;after him for murderous purposes.&rdquo;</em></li><li><em><strong>Theresa K.</strong>, 35, was sent to Dunning after she refused to eat, declaring that her food was poisoned.</em></li><li style=""><em><strong>Catherine T.</strong>, 56, &ldquo;was something like a wild cat.&rdquo; Maggie Mc., who may have fractured her skull five years earlier, was described as &ldquo;silly, helpless, Irish, very poor, and 28 years of age.&rdquo;</em></li><li style=""><em><strong>Fredericka W.</strong>, 35, who was unkempt with a weather-beaten complexion, was sent to Dunning after a policeman found her sitting in a park. She said she &ldquo;was searching for a prince, who had promised her marriage.&rdquo;</em></li><li><em><strong>William L.</strong>, 45, was arrested when a policeman found him &ldquo;wandering about the boulevards ogling women and girls.&rdquo; After hearing the details of the case, a judge declared, &ldquo;Dunning.&rdquo; As the bailiff quickly hustled William L. toward the door, the patient turned around and shouted, &ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t take long to do up a man here!&rdquo;</em></li></ul></blockquote><p>Patients like these were sent by train from the Cook County Detention Hospital to Dunning. &ldquo;It was a hospital car, and they had a doctor aboard and a couple of nurses,&rdquo; Opitz says. &ldquo;The train was called the &lsquo;crazy train.&rsquo; &hellip; There was a guard on both ends so people couldn&rsquo;t get out.&rdquo;</p><p>About half of Dunning&rsquo;s patients suffered from &ldquo;chronic mania,&rdquo; according to the asylum&rsquo;s annual report for 1890. Other patients had conditions described as melancholia, impulsive insanity, monomania and circular insanity. The doctors listed masturbation as one of the most common &ldquo;exciting causes&rdquo; of insanity among Dunning&rsquo;s male patients. According to the report, other patients had become insane as a result of religious excitement, domestic trouble, spiritualism, sunstrokes, disappointment in love, alcohol, abortion, narcotics, puberty and overwork.</p><p><strong>Dunning&rsquo;s unmarked graves</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Throughout its early history, Dunning also included cemeteries &mdash; not only for poorhouse residents and asylum inmates who died, but also for anyone who died in Cook County and whose family couldn&rsquo;t afford to pay for a burial. Some bodies were moved to Dunning from the Chicago City Cemetery, which was underneath what is now Lincoln Park. The people buried at Dunning include 117 victims of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and Civil War veterans &mdash; including Thomas Hamilton McCray, a Confederate brigadier general who moved to Chicago after the war and died in 1891.</p><p>One of the most notorious people buried at Dunning was Johann Hoch, a bigamist who was believed to have married 30 women and murdered at least 10 of them. After he was hanged at Cook County Jail in 1906, other cemeteries refused to accept his body. &ldquo;In that little box that they had made at the jail, the remains of Hoch were buried anonymously somewhere on the grounds at Irving and Naragansett,&rdquo; says Lindberg, who told the story in his 2011 book <a href="http://www.niupress.niu.edu/niupress/scripts/book/bookResults.asp?ID=594">&ldquo;Heartland Serial Killers.&rdquo;</a></p><p>The same fate befell George Gorciak, a Hungarian immigrant who died penniless in 1895, succumbing to typhoid. His family took his body to Graceland Cemetery, apparently unaware that they needed to pay for a plot there. By the end of the day, they&rsquo;d hauled his coffin out to Dunning, where burials were free in the potter&rsquo;s field.</p><p dir="ltr">The burials at Dunning included many orphans and infants &mdash; and adults whose identities were a mystery. In 1912, an &ldquo;Unknown Man&rdquo; who&rsquo;d apparently stabbed himself to death was placed in the ground at Dunning.</p><p>Scandals sometimes erupted over bodies being stolen from Dunning&rsquo;s cemetery by people who wanted them for anatomy demonstrations. In one <a href="http://www.alchemyofbones.com/stories/bodysnatchers.htm">1897 case</a>, four bodies were taken as they were being prepared for burial. Henry Ullrich, a watchman who worked at Dunning, was convicted of selling the corpses to Dr. William Smith, a medical professor in Missouri.</p><p>The professor claimed that the watchman had offered to kill a &ldquo;freak&rdquo; and sell him the body. Smith recalled telling Ullrich, &ldquo;I only want the dead ones.&rdquo; Ullrich supposedly replied, &ldquo;That&rsquo;s all right, Doc &hellip; he&rsquo;s in the &lsquo;killer ward&rsquo; and they&rsquo;d just think he&rsquo;d wandered off. They&rsquo;re always doing that, you know.&rdquo;</p><p>County officials denied the existence of a &ldquo;killer ward.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>State takes control</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In 1910, Dunning&rsquo;s poorhouse residents were moved to a new infirmary in Oak Forest. And in 1912, the state took over the Dunning asylum from Cook County, changing the official name to Chicago State Hospital.</p><p>Conditions had already been improving at Dunning over the previous decade, Mehr says. One reason was the construction of smaller buildings to house patients. And a civil service law passed in 1895 had decreased the problems with patronage. After the state took control, Mehr says, &ldquo;It ended the scandals around the issue of graft and corruption.&rdquo; But incidents of patients being abused still made news from time to time, he says.</p><p>Ross Goodrich says his great-grandmother, an immigrant from Prague named Fannie Hrdlicka (pronounced Herliska), was placed in Dunning when she became depressed after one her children died.</p><p><a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/11195.html"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1947chicagodailynews.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 225px; width: 275px;" title="This February 1947 photo, taken inside the Chicago State Hospital, shows the poorly ventilated, narrow and congested hallways where some patients slept. (Chicago Daily News
photo, Chicago History Museum, ICHi-16073)" /></a>According to the family story, he says, &ldquo;When the baby died, my great-grandmother rocked the baby for a couple of days, and wouldn&rsquo;t let it out of her arms. And then she was placed in Dunning because they thought she was a little crazy. But we suspect it could have been a case of postpartum depression. &hellip; If she was having mental difficulties of any kind, I&rsquo;m not sure that there were any other places available in those days for her to go.&rdquo;</p><p>Hrdlicka was released from Dunning and then readmitted. She died there in 1918.</p><p>Steven Hill says he doesn&rsquo;t know why his great-grandfather, John Ohlenbusch, was living at Dunning when he died in 1910. But the death certificate says he had dementia, so Hill suspects Ohlenbusch&nbsp;may have had what later became known as Alzheimer&rsquo;s disease. Hill says his grandmother never discussed her father&rsquo;s death at Dunning.</p><p>&ldquo;People did not talk about the rough lifestyles they had and how poor they were,&rdquo; Hill says. &ldquo;But I do know they had a very, very tough life.&rdquo;</p><p>Goodrich and Hill would like to find out more about what happened to their ancestors at Dunning, but documents are not easy to find. The <a href="http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/archives/">Illinois State Archives</a> in Springfield has Chicago State Hospital&rsquo;s admission and discharge records from 1920 to 1951, but you need a court order to see them. Some early Cook County records, showing patients who were sent to Dunning between 1877 and 1887, are available for anyone to see in the state archives branch at Northeastern Illinois University.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Changing mental health treatments</strong></p><p>In the first half of the 20th century, Chicago State Hospital used several different treatments for mental illness. Hydrotherapy used hot or cold water to soothe people who were depressed or agitated. Fever treatments induced high temperatures to kill off bacteria in the brains of patients with syphilis.</p><p dir="ltr">Lobotomies were not performed at Chicago State Hospital, but Mehr says the hospital did send some of its patients elsewhere for the treatment, which cuts the brain&rsquo;s frontal lobe. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s like shooting someone in the head with a shotgun,&rdquo; he says.</p><p dir="ltr">For a time, some patients at Dunning and other Illinois hospitals were given electroshock therapy &ldquo;once a day, every day for years, which is just an absolute abomination,&rdquo; Mehr says. &ldquo;That was a terrible thing to do.&rdquo;</p><p>A new era of psychiatric treatment began in 1954, with the discovery Thorazine, the first in a new wave of drugs that directly affected the symptoms of mental illness.</p><p>Mehr, 71, worked for a year at Chicago State Hospital, during an internship from 1964 to 1965. He says the conditions he witnessed were vastly superior to the travesties of Dunning&rsquo;s early history. &ldquo;My impressions weren&rsquo;t all that bad,&rdquo; he says. And yet, he adds, &ldquo;The problem &hellip; was that these state hospitals were overcrowded.&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago State Hospital&rsquo;s buildings closed after it merged in 1970 with the nearby Charles F. Read Zone Center, which had opened on the west side of Oak Park Avenue in 1965. Since 1970, it has been known as Chicago-Read Mental Health Center. Today, for better or worse, fewer people with mental illnesses stay for prolonged periods of time in hospitals.</p><p><strong><a name="deck2"></a>Bodies discovered in 1989</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In the years after Chicago State Hospital closed, the state sold much of the property. Today, the land includes the Dunning Square shopping center, which is anchored by a Jewel store; the campus of Wright College; the Maryville Center for Children; and houses and condominiums.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/davidkeene.JPG" style="margin: 5px; float: right;" title="Archaeologist David Keene was hired to examine the Dunning site, after remains were discovered there in 1989. (WBEZ/Robert Loerzel)" />State officials apparently didn&rsquo;t realize that human bodies were buried underneath a section of the Dunning land when they sold it to Pontarelli Builders, which began work putting up houses. In 1989, a backhoe operator working on the project found a corpse. The state had recently passed a law requiring archaeological assessments before construction is allowed on any property where human remains have been found, so archaeologist David Keene was hired to examine the site. Keene was on the faculty at Loyola University at the time, and now he runs his own company, <a href="http://www.arch-res.com/">Archaeological Research</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;The area was just littered with human remains, with human bone all over the place, where they had disturbed things,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Keene has a vivid recollection of that corpse found by the backhoe. It appeared to be a Civil War veteran. Much of the body was still intact, probably because it had been embalmed with arsenic, a common treatment at the time, which would kill any organisms that would try to consume the flesh.</p><p>&ldquo;He was cut in half at the waist by the backhoe,&rdquo; Keene says. &ldquo;His skin was in relatively good condition &hellip; I mean, you could see his face. But there was considerable deterioration on the face. You could see the mustache. You could see his hair. He had red hair, but it was patchy. The other distinguishing features of the face were no longer there. And he had a jacket on &hellip; it was obviously a military jacket. We only saw it briefly. We didn&rsquo;t spend a lot of time with it &mdash; mostly because the odor was unbelievable, to say the least.&rdquo;</p><p>Keene guided a careful excavation of the land around this gruesome discovery &mdash; stopping the digging whenever a coffin or human remains were revealed. He determined that a five-acre cemetery was hidden, just northwest of the current-day corner of Belle Plaine and Neenah avenues. As a result of Keene&rsquo;s findings, that property was set aside as the Read-Dunning Memorial Park, which was dedicated in 2002. Construction was allowed on the land south of it.</p><p>This was just the second-oldest of three cemeteries on the Dunning grounds. The earliest cemetery was near the original poorhouse, just west of Naragansett Avenue and north of Belle Plaine. County officials had supposedly moved the bodies out of that cemetery into the second graveyard, but Keene says bodies did turn up there during another construction project. &ldquo;We found a little over 30 individuals there, and we were able to remove them so (the developer) could build his building there,&rdquo; Keene says.</p><p>And when Wright College was under construction on the former asylum grounds in the early 1990s, scattered human remains surfaced there, too, Keene says.</p><p>&ldquo;A femur would pop up,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And it wasn&rsquo;t associated with a grave of any sort. It was just mixed in with the soil from previous construction and removal of buildings in the past. In this area, you can walk into any one of these yards and dig in the flowerbeds and come up with human remains. They&rsquo;re part of the scattered remains from construction activity that took place in the &rsquo;20s, &rsquo;30s, &rsquo;40s, &rsquo;50s and &rsquo;60s. Every time they built a building, human remains would go flying.&rdquo;</p><p>As Keene explains, state officials constructed hospital buildings between 1912 and the 1960s on this land without any regard to whether people had been buried there.</p><p>&ldquo;The state came in and &mdash; as far as we can tell, from the archaeological evidence &mdash; removed any surface evidence of burials in the entire area,&rdquo; Keene says. &ldquo;They actually built right on top of graves.&rdquo;</p><p>The third Dunning cemetery was located farther west &mdash; underneath what is now Oak Park Avenue near Chicago-Read Mental Health Center. While Keene was conducting his investigation in 1989, some workers walked over and told him they&rsquo;d found human remains while they were working on a broken water main at Chicago-Read&rsquo;s entrance.</p><p>&ldquo;So we just walked over there,&rdquo; Keene recalls. &ldquo;And sure enough, there were human remains everywhere. And so we began doing some research there to figure out what the boundaries were.&rdquo;</p><p>Keene says it&rsquo;s obvious that someone must have known about the existence of those graves when the road was put on top of them. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s pretty clear,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;When we were there &mdash; and this is just the plumbers trying to get to the leak &mdash; they were cutting right through coffins. So somebody had to cut through some of those coffins in order to put the original lines in.&rdquo;</p><p>In 1989, genealogist Barry Fleig studied the available records about Dunning and documented that more than 15,000 people had been buried in the graveyards there. But the records are incomplete, and Fleig extrapolated that the total is closer to 38,000.</p><p>Opitz says the county&rsquo;s record keeping was slipshod. &ldquo;So consequently, the number of cadavers or people that were buried here is somewhat nebulous,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>The exact figure is unknown, but Keene says 38,000 is a reasonable estimate. For Keene, the lesson of the Dunning graveyards is that burial places are not as permanent as many people think they will be.</p><p>Neighborhood resident Silvija Klavins-Barshney, 50, says she was shocked when she found out about Dunning&rsquo;s graveyards a couple of years ago. She serves as the vice president of the church board of the Latvian Lutheran Zion Church, which is located inside a building that was part of Chicago State Hospital. After learning about the Dunning cemeteries, she created a Facebook page called &ldquo;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/38000-souls-forgotten-The-Read-Dunning-Memorial-Project/208801952501257">38,000 Souls Forgotten: The Read-Dunning Memorial Project</a>.&rdquo; She hopes she can persuade city or state officials to improve the Read-Dunning Memorial Park, such as adding landscaping or a more substantial monument.</p><p dir="ltr">The Illinois Department of Central Management Services owns and maintains the park.</p><p>&ldquo;The more research I did, the more I felt that the story needs to get out,&rdquo; she says, &ldquo;because most of the people &hellip; who were buried here are people that were forgotten in life. They were just left. Or disposed of. Or hidden. And if that&rsquo;s how they lived their lives, how dare we allow them to live their afterlife like that? &hellip; How can 38,000 people be buried and then forgotten?&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Michael Dotson &mdash; who posed the question about Dunning for Curious City &mdash; visited the Read-Dunning Memorial Park with WBEZ in April. &ldquo;When you look around the vicinity, you see apartments and condos and houses and a college and construction going on in the background,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s really hard to &hellip; realize what was here. But if you can kind of separate yourself from all of that, there&rsquo;s just that slight feeling of fear and dread and a little bit of sadness and also fascination. &hellip; It&rsquo;s crazy to think what was here and what&rsquo;s here now and that we&rsquo;ve completely lost sight of that.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Robert Loerzel is a freelance journalist and the author of &ldquo;Alchemy of Bones: Chicago&rsquo;s Luetgert Murder Case of 1897.&rdquo; Follow him at <a href="http://twitter.com/robertloerzel">@robertloerzel</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 30 Apr 2013 07:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/story-dunning-tomb-living-106892