Wade Memorial Chapel, a landmark in Lake View Cemetery

Founded in 1869, Lake View Cemetery quickly became an ornament on the Cleveland landscape. Located on the city’s east side, the list of those buried there provides a roster of Cleveland’s elite citizens extending back for 150 years.

The monuments marking their graves involve the work of generations of skilled artisans and reflect every architectural style and design motif.

It would be difficult to identify the finest example, but a strong contender would be the magnificent Wade Memorial Chapel.

The Wade family played a major role in the cemetery’s creation.

Jeptha H. Wade began his career as an itinerant portrait painter. He quickly abandoned this and created the Western Union Telegraph Company, destined to become a communications giant in the late 19th Century.

Becoming wealthy, he was renowned for his generosity and established a pattern of philanthropy that would extend far into the future and included donating the land that created Wade Park.

Jeptha H. Wade 1890Due to the early death of his son, the senior Wade took responsibility for raising his grandson, Jeptha H. Wade II. A noted benefactor to a range of worthy Cleveland causes, Jeptha Wade II decided to honor his grandfather with the creation of the chapel named in his honor.

This building represented the first commission of the newly founded architectural firm Hubbell & Benes, as well as the beginning of a long collaboration with Jeptha Wade II that culminated in the design of the newly created Cleveland Museum of Art where Wade served as president.

Destined for greatness, the young firm made its reputation with the creation of Wade Chapel.

This was no easy task. Once the site at Lake View Cemetery was selected it proved necessary to excavate to a depth of 25 feet to reach bedrock.

Planning for the structure actually began in 1896. When Hubbell & Benes submitted its plan, Wade found himself so pleased with the firm’s concept that no other plans were sought. When the finalized drawings were submitted to the Lake View Cemetery Association and approved, construction could begin in earnest.

Ground was broken on Feb. 19, 1898.

Wade Memorial Chapel interior showing the stained glass widow “Resurrection” designed by Tiffany staff member Agnes Northrop. Photo Bob Perkoski

In the early stages progress was swift with the foundations and crypt level finished by the end of that year. Completing the interior of the building took much longer.

Various figures are cited for Wade Chapel’s cost. Regardless of which one is accurate, the final cost is the equivalent of millions of dollars in modern money.

The building is a neoclassical design and constructed of granite from Barre, Vermont.

Several other possibilities were considered but were rejected when they proved prone to erosion and discoloration.

The chapel’s interior was designed personally by Louis Comfort Tiffany, based in part on motifs exhibited in the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

Wade Chapel pond area at Lake View Cemetery.One of the most prominent features of the chapel is a stained-glass window titled “Resurrection” designed by Tiffany staff member Agnes Northrop. Before being installed in the chapel, it was shown at the 1900 Paris Exposition.

An important feature of Wade Chapel is a receiving vault—intended to hold caskets during the winter months when harsh north east Ohio winters made digging graves problematic.

The first service conducted in the chapel was the funeral of Adelbert Hay. He was the son of John Hay, whose career began as Abraham Lincoln’s secretary and ended with his service as Theodore Roosevelt’s Secretary of State.

The younger Hay traveled to New Haven, Connecticut to attend a Yale commencement ceremony. After spending the evening with friends, he returned to his hotel. It is speculated that while sitting on a window sill smoking a cigarette, he lost his balance.

Whatever the reason he fell 60 feet to his death.

This young man’s tragic death was perhaps eased by the beautiful setting of his memorial service.

Nearly 125 years later, the Wade Chapel remains one of the most memorable landmarks in what is arguably the city’s finest cemetery.

Read more articles by Tom Matowitz.

Recently retired after a 37-year career teaching public speaking, Tom Matowitz has had a lifelong interest in local and regional history. Working as a freelance author for the past 20 years he has written a number of books and articles about Cleveland’s past. He has a particular interest in the area’s rich architectural history.