Graceland Cemetery was dedicated in 1860 and quickly became a destination for visitors. Landscaped cemeteries of the day were also used for weekend trips, picnics, strolling and riding in carriages. Its 119 acres form the western boundary of Buena Park and blocks east and west traffic which calms traffic flow and insulates the neighborhood. Ours is the only lakefront community in Chicago whose east and west borders are so clear, prominent and easy to recognize. Graceland Cemetery adds to the identity of Buena Park and reinforces its suburb-within-a-city nature that is not found within most Chicago neighborhoods.
U.S. Marine Hospital
The major open space of the neighborhood is a park on the site of the former United States Marine Hospital at 4141 N Clarendon that was built on a 10-acre lakefront lot between 1867 and 1873. The four-story, stone building was designed by government architect A. B. Mullett and sat on the center of the lot. It cost $500,000 to construct. The hospital and its well-manicured lawns and shrubs became a major selling point for developers to persuade families
to move to and live in Buena Park. Walt Disney Magnet School also sits on a portion of the former hospital grounds. In 1889 Francis T. Simmons and Charles U. Gordon developed a construction-restricted Queen Anne style subdivision just north of the hospital grounds along Gordon Terrace that allowed only one single-family residence for every 50 feet.
It took 17 minutes for four train cars packed with dignitaries to travel past cheering throngs from downtown Chicago to Wilson Ave. on May 31, 1900. Fraught with delays since 1892 the L’s speedy service replaced slow streetcars. It ran along Buena Park’s western border and included a stop at Buena Avenue. This marked a new era for Buena Park. The easy access to the rest of the city was now available, and the apartment house boom began. New residents flocked here because of the L, the lakefront and its established residential reputation.
Although critics of apartment buildings proposed the loss of domestic life, family values and privacy, the argument for convenience, efficiency, comfort and modern technology won and “French flats” or apartment buildings and apartment hotels began emerging at the turn of the century. The architects of these three-story and four-story apartments tried to maintain the suburban feel of Buena Park by incorporating courtyards, so each unit would have a view of a lawn, a place for children to play and a sense of light, air and open space.