End of the Line: Chicago Cemeteries and the Community

by Olive O.

In this map, I attempt to visualize the locations and density of currently existing cemeteries in Cook County, IL, and cross-refernce that data with on-going public housing development projects within Chicago in order to speculate the possibility of future relocation of nearby cemeteries due to rising housing crisis. One can see that as it gets closer to the City center, the number of cemeteries decreases to virtually non-existent at the Loop and surrounding areas. There are still some larger cemeteries locating on the north and northwest side of the city, as well as one on the south side at 67th Street & Cottage Grove (Oakwoods Cemetery). The north side cemeteries are near a clutter of public housing projects in Uptown, and the south side cemetery is adjacent to public housing projects in Woodlawn. While both of these community areas face higher-than-average rates of poverty, unemployment and crime, they also present great economic opportunities for future development. In addition, I overlay the vacant property report data (since 6/1/2016) to identify underutilized and underdeveloped community areas, and from there we can start to speculate if any of these vacancy could be used as alternative burial sites or storage for remains.

Cemeteries are not always the “final" resting place for human remains. Historically, cemeteries in the Chicago-area have always been prone to relocation due the expansion and development of the city, and sometimes the dead simply “gets in the way” of the living. According to industry surveys conducted by the National Funeral Directors Association, the year 2015 marks the first time ever that majority of Americans prefer cremation over burial; this indicates a shift in American funeral traditions and cultural norm. As the city expands and housing crisis continues on the rise, inner-city cemeteries are shrinking. When plans of modern developers clash with the increasing inevitability of relocating cemeteries, it’s important for architects and urban planners to ask: How do we plan for that?