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Can Chicagoans Be Buried on Their Own Property?

For some, there’s no final resting place like home.

Illustration by John Kenzie
Illustration: John Kenzie

Sorry, DIY fans: Burials can’t be an at-home project in Chicago. The regulation banning interment outside of a cemetery went into effect in the late 1890s when the city had an exploding population and an anything-goes approach to dealing with the dead. According to an 1897 Tribune story, “From Market Street to Dearborn or State, bodies of early Chicagoans are thickly laid.” In one case, passersby spotted two rogue coffins floating down the Chicago River.  At first, the city prohibited all grave digging, offloading it to bordering areas with established burial grounds, including Graceland Cemetery in what is now Uptown. Once these communities were annexed, Chicago codified the rules that exist today. Pets, on the other hand, are fair game for backyard entombment — as long as they weigh less than 150 pounds.

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