Friday, March 6, 2015


My previous posts on two of the great Chicago area mausoleum builders, Sidney Lovell and Anders E. Anderson were well-received, so I though that this week I would continue the trend and write about Chicago's other great mausoleum builder Street Lightfoot, who conceived and built the magnificent mausoleum in Acacia Park Cemetery in Chicago.  If you stand out in front of the Acacia Park Mausoleum you will see this message carved into the stone:

In Memory Of
Founder & Builder
Acacia Park Cemetery
and Mausoleum
Deceased July 29, 1955

In the late 1910s the Masonic Fraternity of Chicagoland decided to develop cemeteries that would be limited to Masons, members of the Eastern Star and their families.  Street Lightfoot was hired to accomplish this because of his cemetery expertise and background in Masonry. Lightfoot developed the Acacia Park Cemetery on Chicago's north side, and the Cedar Park Cemetery on Chicago's far south side for the Masons.  This article will concentrate on the Acacia Park Cemetery and more specifically on the Acacia Park Mausoleum.

Before we look at the mausoleum he built, let's see what we can find out about the man with the unusual name Street Lightfoot.

John Street Lightfoot was born Febuary 17, 1878 in Fort Deposit, Alabama to William A. Lightfoot (1828-1914) and Anne Elizabeth, nee McRea (1835-1902).  William A. Lightfoot was a veteran of the Civil War, having fought for the Confederacy as part of McQueen's Regiment in the Alabama Calvary.

William Lightfoot had been married previously to Martha Eugenia, nee Dunn (1832-1868).  William and Martha had two daughters:  Lou E. Lightfoot (1862-????) and Martha Eugenia Lightfoot (1863-1919).  After Martha's death William married Anne Elizabeth, nee McRea (1835-1902) on August 20, 1868.  They had three sons:  William A. Lightfoot, Jr. (1869-1952),  Henry Robert Lightfoot, (1873-1944) and John Street Lightfoot (1875-1955).

The 1880 US Census shows the Lightfoot family living in Fort Deposit Alabama.  William A. Lightfoot, Sr. listed his occupation as "Farmer".  John Street Lightfoot was two years old.  The 1890 US Census for that part of the country is lost, but the 1900 US Census finds the Lightfoot family living in Tampa, Florida.

William A. Lightfoot is retired; the rest of the family is in retail,  Twenty two year old John Street Lightfoot lists his occupation as "Dry Goods Business."

On February 3, 1904, John Street Lightfoot married Jessie Estelle Gramling (1878-1966) in Hillsborough County, Florida.   

Jessie Estelle Gramling was the daughter of William Edward Gramling (1849-1901) and Sarah Wellington, nee Reid (1853-1928).  In addition to Jessie, William and Sarah Gramling had three daughters:  Mary L. Gramling (1869-????), Ethel May Granling (1879-????) and Louise Gramling (1891-1896), and two sons:   William Reid Gramling (1871-1941) and Antoine K. Gramling (1888-1965).  Their father was a carriage maker by trade.

The 1910 US Census finds Street and Jessie Lightfoot living with her parents in Tampa, Florida.  He has dropped the "John" from his name and now just goes by "Street Lightfoot".  Street lists his occupation as "Real Estate."

By the time Street Lightfoot has to register for the draft in September of 1918, the Lightfoots have moved North.    They are living at 4700 N. Winchester in Chicago:

4700 N. Winchester, Chicago

Street Lightfoor indicates his occupation as "Secretary" of the Irving Park Boulevard Cemetery.  He was based out of their office in downtown Chicago - Suite 1848 in the Conway Building, on the SWC of Clark and Washington:

In those days all of the cemeteries maintained an office in downtown Chicago.

By the 1920 US Census, Street Lightfoot has joined the Acacia Park Cemetery Company as its President.  He and Jessie are still living at 4700 N. Winchester and Jessie's mother has come to live with them. 

Street Lightfoot knew the neighborhood along West Irving Park Road just outside the Chicago city limits very well, having worked for the Irving Park Cemetery as mentioned above.  When the Masons hired Lightfoot to develop a north side cemetery, he made arrangements to purchase 83 acres of sloping land right across the street from the Irving Park Cemetery.  The land is bounded by Berteau on the north, Irving Park, on the south, Ozanam on the east and Pioneer on the west.  
The Acacia Park Cemetery was opened in 1922.  Here's a photo from the groundbreaking of the cemetery:

The first mention of a burial at Acacia Park was in the Chicago Daily Tribune of  June 14, 1923 for Frederick Glaser, buried in the Linden Section.

From the day it opened, sales of plots in Acacia Park Cemetery were brisk - there was a large Masonic population in Chicagoland. Lightfoot felt that all men were equal before God, so he declared from the first that all headstones at Acacia Park had to be of a uniform size, and the only large monuments allowed would be two large granite obelisks with Masonic symbols on them.

As the 1920s moved along, Street Lightfoot was restless.  His work organizing and developing Acacia Park Cemetery was complete.  The south side Masonic Cemetery he developed, Cedar Park, 97 acres at Halsted and 124 streets, was dedicated in October of 1924.  He wanted to do something that would set Acacia Park apart from other Masonic Cemeteries.  In January of 1925 he made his announcement - he would build a community mausoleum at Acacia Park.    

The announcement came in the January 18, 1925 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune:

$800,000 Structure to Be in Acacia Cemetery.

By Al Chase

Chicago is to have one of the most magnificent mausoleums in the world - a solid marble, concrete and bronze structure - dedicated to Masons and their families.

Work has started on this impressive building which will stand in the center of the eighty-three acre Acacia Park cemetery, on the north side of Irving Park boulevard, extending from Phillips to Thatcher road, about a mile west of the city limits. 

Designed by Chicago Firm.

The $800,000 Acacia mausoleum was designed by R.G. Schmidt & Co., of Chicago, who were the architects of Medinah Temple, Medinah Country Club, and other Masonic temples throughout the country.  

The building will have rooms for families, each one with bronze gates with the name of the owner; single crypts and columbariums, where cremated remains will be placed in bronze urns.

In the main part will be a high vaulted chapel.  This chapel, as well as the mausoleum corridors  and rooms will be carpeted and furnished with comfortable chairs, plants and soft lights.  Carpets are an unusual feature of a mausoleum, according to Street Lightfoot, president of the Acacia Park Cemetery Association, and also the Acacia Mausoleum corporation. 

Only One in World with Organ.

Mr. Lightfoot, a Floridian, who has only lived in Chicago a few years, states that both the mausoleum and the cemetery are completely financed and no stocks or bonds are for sale.

"I believe it will be the only mausoleum in the world with an organ," said Mr. Lightfoot, "and I don't believe there is another mausoleum anywhere that will have as beautiful a setting as the Acacia. We're going to lay out a sunken garden 150 x 400 in front of it, with a marble fountain at each end, with cascades. 

To Be Completed by Fall.

"We'll have $83,000 worth of bronze alone in the mausoleum.  The exterior will be of silvery gray and the interior of white axed Georgia marble.  We intend to have a complete ventilating system throughout the building.

"I feel safe in saying it is the only building of its kind dedicated to Masons.  We hope to have it completed by fall."

Space in the mausoleum will be sold with a stipulation in the contract that it can be used only for Masons and their families and if anyone to be buried there is found, upon investigation, not to have been a Mason, the contract will be void. 

Endowed Fund in Trust.

A perpetual endowment fund, held in trust to be administered by the Union Trust company, has been established.  The income from the fund, it is claimed, will be sufficient to insure perpetual care of Acacia Mausoleum for all time.  

The new mausoleum at Acacia Park Cemetery was dedicated June 26, 1927:

Here's a photo from the dedication:

Since Street Lightfoot did not finance his mausoleum, when the Great Depression hit he did not run into any of the cash flow problems that plagued Anders E. Anderson with the Oak Ridge Abbey mausoleum.

Street and Jessie Lightfoot must have divorced sometime during the 1920s because they remarrried in St. Joseph, Indiana on June 2, 1928.  Unfortunately this was an indication of trouble ahead.

By the 1930 US Census things were looking up for the Lightfoots.  They were renting an apartment at 3000 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago, for which they paid $200.00 per month rent.  Jessie's mother had died in 1928 so she was no longer living with them, but Street's brother William Lightfoot was living with them.  They also had a live-in servant, fifty-six year old Catherine Haage.  Street Lightfoot listed his occupation as "Proprietor of a Cemetery."

3000 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago

In 1934, perhaps as an answer to the hard times being experienced all over the US, Street Lightfoot announced one more major project for Acacia Park Cemetery, a Crematorium/Columbarium.  From the Chicago Daily Tribune of November 18, 1934:

Here's a photo of the crematorium/ columbarium which is still in use today:

In 1934 the Lightfoots moved again - this time to 2256 Lincoln Park West in Chicago:

2256 Lincoln Park West, Chicago

By 1940, Street and Jessie Lightfoot were divorced.   I was not able to find Street Lightfoot in the 1940 US Census, but Jessie Lightfoot had taken an apartment by herself (and a live-in housekeeper) at 2335 N. Commonwealth Avenue in Chicago.

By the time Street Lightfoot registered for the draft in April of 1942 he had remarried.  His second wife was Elsie Helen, nee Wiese (1903-1987).  Elsie had also been married previously - to Ralph Chester Chilberg (1898-1943).  Elsie and Ralph had a daughter, Charlotte (b. 1922).

Street, Elsie and Charlotte were living in a house that had been constructed on the grounds of the cemetery, at 4214 Ozanam in what had become Norwood Park (now Harwood Heights), Illinois:

4214 N. Ozanam, Harwood Heights, IL

Ultimately, Street and Elsie Lightfoot retired to Eustis, Florida but still ran the cemetery, at least on paper.

Street Lightfoot died in Eustis, Florida on July 29, 1955 at the age of 77.  Here is is obituary and death notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune:

He is, of course, interred in the mausoleum he conceived and built:

As a tribute to Street Lightfoot, Founder and Builder, let's take a look around his beautiful mausoleum:

Inside Bronze Front Door with Masonic Symbols

Family Rooms Line the Grand Entrance Hall
More Family Rooms

Looking Back Toward the Front Doors

Even the Light Fixtures are Works of Art

The Main Chapel

Presider's Chair

Hallway Off Chapel
Hallway Lined with Family Rooms

A Wall of Crypts


Columbarium Hallway

Guarding the Columbarium

Another Hallway

Elevator Door to Upper Level

Family Crypts

Ready for the Next Masonic Service

Some additional hall and stairway views:

Architectural Details Abound

Everywhere you turn, you are reminded that Masons are builders. Here is an assortment of architectural details from some of the Family Rooms:

I have visited the Acacia Park Mausoleum countless times, and every time I visit I notice something I hadn't noticed before.

I never met Street Lightfoot, but I wish I had.  I bet he would have been a very interesting man to talk to.  Instead we will have to know him through the beautiful mausoleum he left us.

Here is the only photo I have been able to find of Street Lightfoot:

Street Lightfoot - Master Mason, Master Builder - may he rest in peace.


  1. Imagine what it would cost today to build such a beautiful building... WOW! The craftsmanship and quality of the materials would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Thanks for the article.

  2. My parents we're just laid to rest there on 7/20/17. Just above her parents (Schutt) in the columbarium where it looks like a small chapel on the east side. In the picture on here it shows no writing on the nitch right above my grandparents. Next month it will say Charles and Janet O'Neil, my mom and dad. I also have my great aunts, uncles and cousin there on my mom's side. All Mason's and Eastern Star. It's still a beautiful place and holds my heart inside it's walls.

  3. This Cemetery has always been very well maintained. I have family members buried here and also own crypts in the Garden Mausoleum. I am wondering what has recently happened the roads in are in terrible shape and the Cemetery is allowing items to be placed all over the grounds and on the mausoleum crypts. In some places it resembles a Circus look. Restrictions need to be put in place to stop this and bring back a clean park like setting. In the Catholic Cemeteries you are not allowed to place anything on the mausoleum crypts or the Cemetery will remove it. The roads also need to be repaired. Lets bring back the Cemetery to the Grand days of old.

    1. We do have rules regarding decorations here at Acacia. The new owners now are enforcing these rules. We have 2 cleanups, March 1st and October 1st. If you haven't been here in awhile, you should come. Everything looks much better.