WADE MEMORIAL CHAPEL in LAKE VIEW CEMETERY is one of Cleveland's most notable structures. The building was constructed 1896-1900. It was dedicated in 1901 to the memory of JEPTHA WADE (1811-90), the founder of Western Union and the first president of the Lake View Cemetery Association, by his grandson JEPTHA WADE HOMER II

The structure was designed by the family architect Dominick Benes of HUBBELL AND BENES, and JOSEPH CARABELLI, was the builder. Its form is based on that of a Neoclassical temple. A porte cochere, which protects the driveway from weather, is supported by eight Ionic columns. Guests of the chapel then pass through the portico under four Doric columns. The exterior is gray Barre granite, and the entrance features 2-ton bronze doors.

The interior – inspired by Byzantine, Moorish, Pre-raphaelite, Greek, and Art Nouveau styles – is an excellent example of collaboration between architect and artist. Many of the interior features were designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany's firm and executed at the Tiffany studios in New York. The wainscot walls are made of Georgia marble. To prevent smoke and soot from collecting in the chapel, Tiffany chose electric lights to light the interior. Although Tiffany and Thomas Edison were collaborators on other projects, it is an urban myth that Edison was responsible for the chapel’s light installation. 

Frederick Wilson, the head of Tiffany’s ecclesiastical department, orchestrated the narrative of the mosaic walls. The theme of the interior is "The Voyage of Life," an interpretation of the Biblical doctrines of mortality and immortality. The center aisle of the chapel, a representation of the biblical waterway Chebar, is decorated with a floor meander-mosaic of gray marble and serpentine. The altar’s sedilia – benches reserved for officials and the clergy – are made of alabaster. Along the West and East side walls are panels of glass mosaic, each 8' by 32'. The West panel symbolizes the Prophecy and Law of the Old Testament. The East panel represents the Fulfillment and Light of the New Testament through the birth of Christianity. The mosaics depict funerary barges rowing towards the end of the chapel. Tiffany extended the imagery of the mosaics to the pews of the chapel. The Lebanese cedar pews have symbolic oar locks made out of mother-of-pearl, gold, and agate glass. At the North wall chapel is a large stained-glass window designed by Tiffany himself, the "Consummation of the Divine Promise," representing the passing of the soul from earth to heaven.

The receiving vault, located in the lower level of the chapel, is accessed through an entrance towards Wade Lake. The two chambers of the vault each hold 48 empty crypts. Before the 21st-century, the crypts were a temporary storage area for caskets during the winter. The caskets were held there until the ground thawed in the spring. The anteroom – a space reserved for mourners – and the coffin lift can also be found in the lower level. The coffin lift delivers to the catafalque, which is located directly underneath the Divine Promise window in the altar of the chapel.

Wade Memorial Chapel is still used for services and weddings. The chapel accepts visitors from April to November, but the interior is closed for the winter. 

Black, white and red text reading Western Reserve Historical Society

View image in Digital Cleveland Starts Here®

Hubbell and Benes Records, WRHS.


Cleveland Historical Logo

View more on Cleveland Historical


See: The Wade Chapel: A Story of Art, Spirit, and Family by Wayne Thomas Biffano

Margaret Yuna Kim

Article Categories