Home

Information

Veterans

Links and Events

General Information about the Cemetery

Purpose

The Bohemian National Cemetery of Chicago is a Fraternal not for profit cemetery founded in 1877 by Bohemian, Moravian and Slovak immigrants and their descendants to provide a dignified place for burials free of religious restraints. The cemetery is available to all religions, nationalities and races.

Location

The cemetery is located on the north side of Chicago. It is situated on 122 acres bounded by Pulaski Road on the West, Foster Avenue on the South, Bryn Mawr Avenue on the North and Central Park Avenue - Northeastern Illinois University - on the East. It is two miles East of the Kennedy Expressway (I-90) and one mile East of the Edens expressway (I-94).

Hours

The cemetery grounds are open every day from 7:30 am until 3:00 pm. Please make sure you leave by 3:00 as the gates WILL be locked. Effective September 1 2014, the office hours are: Monday through Friday from 7:30 am until 3:00 pm and closed on Saturdays, Sundays and the following holidays: New Years Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. During inclement weather we may deem it necessary to close the office/cemetery. Please call the office to check availibility, as the safety of our customers and employees is of primary concern. The cemetery is also available by appointment.

 

 

^Top

Board of Directors

The cemetery is governed by a Board of Directors elected annually by Delegates of the Bohemian National Cemetery Association Assembly of Delegates.

The officers for 2014 are:

^Top

President

Vice-President

Secretary

Treasurer

Trustees

David C. Pimm

William Hudecek

Linda Hudecek

Angeline Bultas

Andy Bultas

Chuck Betzold

Charles Cervenka

The Audit and Oversight Committee

^Top

The Audit and Oversight Committee elected for 2014 is:

Martha Cervenka

Jerome Gaydusek

Chuck Michalek

 

A BRIEF HISTORY of THE BOHEMIAN NATIONAL CEMETERY

The Bohemian National Cemetery of Chicago was founded in 1877 as a result of a Catholic priest denying burial in the Bohemian-Polish Catholic cemetery to those he disliked. The refusal to allow the burial of Marie Silhanek who died on July 25, 1876 taxed the patience of the Bohemian people to the breaking point. The movement grew rapidly lead by Mr. Frank Zdrubek, editor of the Bohemian daily "Svornost" who gave lectures under the auspices of the Bohemian Freethinker's Society.

At a lecture on January 21, 1877 a committee was elected and instructed to ask all Bohemian societies of Chicago to send a delegate to a February 12 meeting. It was at this latter meeting that the decision was made that all societies should found the cemetery and hold it in common as a national property.

The organization proceeded to raise funds and obtain a suitable location for the cemetery. The land purchased was in the Township of Jefferson, and the first burial was the child of Charles Brada on July 1, 1877. The second burial was on August 7, and that was of Anna, daughter of John Bican. The Township of Jefferson brought legal action, and on October 16, Judge Williams ruled the cemetery Association could continue burials in the cemetery. Because of the expansion of the city, by 1892 the cemetery was within the Chicago city limits.

The celebration of the official opening of the Bohemian National Cemetery was held on September 2, 1877. The first public funeral was held on November 1, 1877.

The cemetery started with 50 acres and expanded several times reaching an area of 124 acres. The cemetery covered the land from Foster Avenue to Bryn Mawr and Pulaski to Central Park or the Northeastern Illinois University. In 2000 the cemetery sold a 2 acre crescent shaped area between the North Branch of the Chicago River and Foster Avenue to a Land Trust which deeded it to the Chicago Park District as that land will be part of the Grand Illinois Trail.

The Association proceeded to construct a Gothic style Gate-House, an Office Building and a Crematorium. In 1959 the Association built the Masaryk Memorial Mausoleum, and then added Eduard Benes and a Milan Stefanek wing. Until the 1980's the cemetery had several large greenhouses attached to the office building.

The charter of the cemetery association required the cemetery to support Bohemian educational and cultural endeavors. The Association supported Bohemian schools throughout the Chicago area and in 1893 it established an orphanage and old people's home which was known as The Bohemian Home for the Aged. In 1992 that facility moved to Naperville Illinois and is known as Tabor Hills Healthcare Center and Retirement Community. The Cemetery Association is on record as waiving burial expenses of those unable to pay. The Cemetery Association also provided funds for widows and families in need.

Two notable events occurred in which the Bohemian National Cemetery became involved. The first was on July 24, 1915 when the excursion ship Eastland capsized in the Chicago River with the loss of 844 lives. The passengers were employees of the Western Electric Company and many of them Bohemian. The 143 victims buried in Bohemian National Cemetery is the largest number in any cemetery. The second event was the assassination of Mayor Anton Cermak in 1933 when he was in a motorcade seated beside President Franklin Roosevelt. The Cermak mausoleum in Section 21 to this day is visited by people from throughout the United States as well as the Czech Republic.

Excellent histories of the Bohemian National Cemetery can be found in "Semi-Centennial Jubilee of the Bohemian National Cemetery Association in Chicago, Illinois" by Dr. J. E. Vojan, and "The CENTENNIAL of the BOHEMIAN NATIONAL CEMETERY ASSOCIATION of CHICAGO, Illinois" by James Krakora. There are numerous other books about the cemetery written in the Czech language.

^Top

Points of Interest

^Top

POINTS of INTEREST on CEMETERY MAP

1.The famous entrance designated a historical landmark in 1977 on the occasion of our 100th anniversary.

2.Our World War Memorial with our flag pole honoring War Veterans of W.W. I and W.W. II... The flag is flown in honor of one of our veterans each day.

3.The grave of Joseph Lahvic, the first grave digger at the cemetery.

4.Statue “The Mother” by Albin Polasek, noted Czech sculptor, erected in 1927 on the occasion of our 50th year Jubilee.

5.The Crematory Building, erected in 1913 with its beautiful main chapel and Columbarium.

6.The KOLAR family mausoleum, landlords to Mrs. O’Leary of Chicago Fire fame.

7.Plaque honoring N. Brada, a baby, whose burial was the first ever to take place at our cemetery. The grave was originally near the entrance gate, but it was moved for security reasons and to provide a place of honor.

8.The ODD FELLOWS MONUMENT located at the northwest corner of the park area.

9.The CIVIL WAR VETERANS MEMORIAL. The cornerstone was laid on July 28, 1899 with dedication on May 29, 1892. The memorial cost was $5,035.

10.The SPANISH AMERICAN WAR MEMORIAL known as HIKER. The statue is 8’5” tall, weighs 1600 pounds and stands on Wisconsin Red Granite boulder weighing 25 tons. The statue and boulder rest on a foundation which is 9’ deep.

11.KLACEL CIRCLE. In this circle are buried some of the guiding forces in Czech American History, among them Vaclav Pohl, first President of the Czechoslovak Societies of America, Frank Zdrubek, a founder of the Bohemian National Cemetery Association, Frank Boucek, also a president of the cemetery, Robert Vickers, author of the “History of Bohemia”, Dr. Antonin Mueller and Dr. Anton Radesinsky.

12.Section 16 where many of the victims of the EASTLAND DISASTER are buried.

13.Family Mausoleum of the CERMAK family. Anton Cermak was Mayor of Chicago from 1931 to 1933, when he was assassinated while protecting the life of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

14.Statue “The Pilgrim” done by Albin Polasek for the family. The statue gives the appearance of walking toward the family mausoleum.

15.The MASARYK MEMORIAL MAUSOLEUM named after and dedicated to the memory of T.G. Masaryk, the founder and First President of the Czechoslavak Republic.

^Top

Aerial View
The aerial photograph shows the size of the cemetery and roadways. The curved roadways on the left side of the photograph, the north side of the cemetery, are the result of the cemetery design by Jens Jensen, noted Chicago Landscape Architect.

The photograph also shows the entrance, office building, Masaryk Memorial Mausoleum, Klacel Circle and Crematorium.

^Top

Rules and Regulations

^Top

FAQ

Frequently asked questions about Bohemian National Cemetery

The cemetery looks full are there any gravesites available?

The cemetery is far from being full, and there are many gravesites available through out the 122 acres. There are four grave lots in many sections, and organizations have purchased groups of 25 graves in the Blocks on the East side of the cemetery.

Who can be buried in Bohemian National Cemetery?

Anyone and everyone.

When is The Bohemian National Cemetery open?

The grounds are open every day of the year from 7:30 AM to 3:00 PM.

For the office hours, please see above under HOURS.

When can I visit the Columbarium?

The Columbarium can be visited anytime the office is open by coming to the office for an escort. Anyone wishing to visit the Columbarium on Saturday afternoon or Sunday should make prior arrangements with the office (773-539-8442).

My parents are buried in Bohemian National, and I wish to be cremated. Can my ashes be buried in one of the graves?

As long as you are a direct descendent of the purchaser of the lot or are the lot owner of record, the urn with your ashes can be buried above the vault in one of the graves. If there is a headstone on that grave, you can not add another headstone. If there is space on the existing headstone, your name can be added or else a flat bronze plate with your name can be placed above your urn.

I want to plant flowers on my relative’s grave. Will the cemetery care for them?

The cemetery staff will water and weed graves for $35 per year. This is the cost that is included in the plantings that are done for lot holders contracting with the cemetery for the plantings.

How can I get a tour of the cemetery and learn more about it?

The Friends of Bohemian National Cemetery have a guided tour in the spring and in the summer. The tours are lead by a very well informed guide. Individual tours can be arranged through the “Friends” organization. They also have several meetings each year about the culture and history of the cemetery. The “Friends” website can be reached by clicking here.

^Top