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."