Filed Under Architecture

Wade Memorial Chapel

Within Lake View Cemetery stands a beautiful, white structure - the Wade Memorial Chapel. This century-old structure has been referred to as one of the finest small buildings in America and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Over the chapel doors, you will find an inscription: "Erected in Memory of Jeptha H. Wade by the Grandson, A.D. MDCCCC." Mr. Wade is best known for being the founder of the Western Union Telephone Company. He also dedicated his life to hard work and good deeds, making him worthy of the honor his grandson bestowed upon him.

Jeptha H. Wade was born Aug 11, 1811 in Seneca Co. N.Y. He was the youngest of nine children. When Jeptha was a baby, his father passed away, leaving his mother to struggle to raise him and his siblings. He left home at the age of twelve for a series of apprenticeships. He thus got to try his hand as a shoemaker, a bricklayer and a carpenter. By the age of twenty he was a partner and soon owner of his first company: a sash door and blind factory in Seneca Falls, N.Y. In 1847, he acquired his first job in the telegraph industry. He would make his fortune in this field over the next twenty years, eventually forming the Western Union Telegraph Company.

At the height of his telegraphy success, Wade became ill and settled in Cleveland. His illness did not slow him down, however. He held six presidencies in banks and railroads, and became a director and stockholder in nine concerns, including the Cleveland Rolling Mill and the Cleveland Shipbuilding Company.

Wade also made his mark in Cleveland through his philanthropy. He constructed the Cleveland Orphan Asylum and gave it a $140 thousand endowment, a hefty sum in the late 1800s. In 1885, he donated 75 acres for the creation of Wade Park in University Circle. By 1960, it was estimated that the Wade family had donated over 25 million dollars to the city of Cleveland. The family has also donated a number of artworks to the Cleveland Museum of Art.

The Wade Memorial Chapel is truly a thing of beauty that creates a sense of awe in its visitors. The exterior was constructed by Hubbell & Benes, an architectural firm that was responsible for many other notable buildings around Cleveland. The interior was designed by Louis C. Tiffany. From the mosaic tile floor with its swirly design, up to the simple wood pews, and finally to the walls, Tiffany has left a significant mark in Wade's chapel. The left and right walls contain massive panels consisting of thousands of cut pieces of mosaic glass, showcasing the 'River of Life' and the 'River of Death.' It is said that when Tiffany was given the commission to create the wall panels, he proclaimed that it was just the opportunity he had been waiting for, and that he would make it the work of his life. Three years later, when Tiffany arrived in Cleveland to inspect the finished work, he said, "I am perfectly satisfied."

Audio

Jeptha Wade Memorial Chapel The family of Jeptha Wade sought to memorialize him on the grounds of Lake View Cemetery where he is buried. Wayne Bifano, a chapel guide, provides the background for the development and construction of the chapel. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
The Architectural Features of the Wade Chapel Wayne Bifano, Wade Chapel Guide, describes the exterior and interior design features of the chapel. Architect Dominic Benes and Louis Comfort Tiffany collaborated to complete the exterior structure and interior decor of the chapel. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Wade Chapel Services Mary Krohmer, Director of Community Relations for Lake View Cemetery, discusses the use of Wade Chapel on the cemetery grounds. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Images

Jeptha H. Wade, c. 1890 Mr. Wade was very involved in the creation of Lake View Cemetery. He was one of the early planners and also served as both a member and the president on the cemetery's original board of trustees. Within that beautiful city of the dead that he had been largely instrumental in creating and caring for, he also found his own final resting place. Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Prints and Photographs Division. Miscellaneous Items in High Demand Collection. Buttre, John Chester - Brady, Mathew B., LC-USZ6-1855.
Wade's Beginnings In 1847, while Jeptha H. Wade was residing in Milan, Ohio, he acquired his first job in the telegraph industry. This was just beginning. Wade started buying companies and laying lines as fast as he could. He was also the inventor of the Wade Insulator and the first submarine cable in iron armor. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Lines of the Western Union Telegraph Company This map shows some early routes and the first cross country telegraph line of Wade's Western Union Telegraph Company. By 1867, Jeptha Wade was the virtual creator and chief ruler of the greatest and most prosperous telegraph enterprise in the world. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Wade Park and the Cleveland Museum of Art Wade is well known for his donation of 75 well-groomed acres in 1885. He gave the land outright to the city in order to create Wade Park. When he donated the park in what is now University Circle, he withheld several acres as a "College Reserve" or a possible art gallery. His grandson Jeptha H. Wade II eventually donated the "Reserve" as plans were being laid to build the Cleveland Museum of Art. Wade II also contributed $1,250,000 towards the construction of the museum itself. An unknown individual is shown here rescuing a swan from the ice in Wade Park. The Cleveland Museum of Art is visible in the background.   Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
The Chapel The Memorial Chapel was built in a classical Greek style of architecture with fluted Ionic pillars constructed of light Barre granite. When Jeptha H. Wade II had this chapel erected, he had it built to last at least 500 years, with foundations carried down to solid rock 25 feet below surface. Architects Benjamin S. Hubbell and Dominick W. Benes are also responsible for the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Central YMCA, the West Side Market and many other notable building. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
A Strike at the Cemetery In the summer of 1947, a dispute over 6 cents an hour between the Lake View Cemetery Association and the A.F.L. Arborists and Landscapers Union caused 63 gravediggers and maintenance men to go on strike. All burials at the cemetery were halted for seven weeks. Wade Chapel played a critical role in housing the delayed burials. The chapel's benches were removed and its floors were covered with two-by-fours to make room for more caskets after the crypts had been filled. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
The Flight of Souls wins the Gold The centerpiece of the chapel is a large elaborate stained glass window - The Flight of Souls - designed by Louis C. Tiffany. The piece, which shows Tiffany's signature "Favrile" method, depicts the consummation of the Divine Promise. Before final arrangement in the chapel, The Flight of Souls was exhibited at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, where it received a gold medal. Image courtesy of Lake View Cemetery Association.
The Left Wall Panel This 32' by 8' panel on the left wall of the chapel was designed by Fredrick Wilson and made by Tiffany Studios in New York. This mosaic symbolizes the 7 Pillars of Wisdom and the 7 Old Testament prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, David, Ezekiel, Hosea and Micah. The right wall depicts the New Testament. Image Courtesy of Dr. Mark Souther.
The Right Wall Panel The panel on the right wall of the chapel is 8 feet high and 32 feet long. Like the left wall panel, it was also designed by Fredrick Wilson and constructed by Tiffany Studios in New York. This mosaic symbolizes the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit and 7 Saints: St. George, St. Andrew, St. Patrick, St. James, St. Denys and St. Anthony. Image courtesy of Dr. Mark Souther.

Location

Metadata

Ashley Hardison, “Wade Memorial Chapel,” Cleveland Historical, accessed May 24, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/380.