CLE history with an electric spark


A snapshot inside Wade Memorial Chapel.

There are many hidden treasures throughout Cleveland, but one of the most spectacular treasures rich in history is located deep inside of Lakeview Cemetery.  The cemetery itself is beautiful and is oozing with history as many prominent people made this their final resting place.

Lakeview Cemetery was created by Jeptha H. Wade, who was a working-class businessman in the mid-1800’s from Seneca, New York, but found his big break in the telegraph industry and quickly became a millionaire when he began the Western Union Telegraph Company.  Cleveland was home to many of the world’s millionaires in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, but most of them weren’t as generous as Wade.  He definitely made his mark in Cleveland through philanthropy.  He constructed the Cleveland Orphan Asylum and donated a $140 thousand endowment, a substantial sum of cash in the late 1800’s.  In 1885, he donated 75 well-groomed acres for the creation of “Wade Park” in what is the University Circle/Uptown area.  By 1960, it was estimated that the Wade family had donated over $25 million to the city of Cleveland.  The family has also donated a number of artworks to the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Did you know Wade Memorial Chapel was wired by Thomas Edison?

So now that you have a little bit of history about Jeptha H. Wade let’s talk about this breathtaking chapel.  As I stated previously, the Wade Memorial Chapel is located inside of Lakeview Cemetery, and it was built to honor the late Jeptha H. Wade.  Jeptha H. Wade II, the grandson of Jeptha H. Wade, was the mastermind behind the chapel. The two men had an extraordinary bond, and after the passing of his grandfather, the younger Wade pondered a way to commemorate his grandfather’s memory resulting in the construction of the  Wade Memorial Chapel.

Believing that only the finest quality would do, young  Wade met with Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of Charles W. Tiffany founder of Tiffany & Co. Jewelers, to develop the design for this memorial chapel.  Tiffany was considered one of the most creative and prolific designers,  best known for his signature “Tiffany Lamps.”.  He agreed to take on this extensive project under one condition; Wade II had to agree to allow the chapel to become the first publicly illuminated building in Cleveland.  There were no objections, and the chapel was built in 1901.

It is one of the few interiors left in the world that was totally designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and his studios.  It’s apparent the intended focus of the Chapel is the spectacular “Flight of Souls” stained glass window, which was the first element of the chapel to be constructed.  Before being installed, the window won a gold medal during the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, giving it credibility as an important example of Tiffany’s highly- prized ecclesiastical work.  From the mosaic floor to the cuts of thousands of pieces of mosaic glass creating the intricate artwork on the walls which showcase the “River of Life” on one side of the chapel and the “River of Death” on the other, Tiffany definitely made his mark.  The exterior of the chapel was constructed by Hubbell & Benes  a local architectural firm responsible for many other notable buildings in Cleveland and features a classical Greek design.

When Wade II commissioned the construction of the chapel, he specifically stated to create a structure that would last at least 500 years, with foundations carried down to solid rock 25 feet below the surface.  The doors that welcome guests weigh five tons and the pews were made out of wood shipped in from the holy land.  As if all of these facts aren’t already amazing, the wiring for the electrical work was done by none other than Tiffany’s good friend Thomas Alva Edison.

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