Bronzeville Funeral Home Giving Up the Ghost
Who gives last rites to the priest? Who installs a new crown in the dentist's mouth? Who buries the gravedigger? Or, more importantly, who gives the eulogy when a funeral home dies?
If you're the family that has held sway over Griffin Funeral Home for 60 years, you give it yourself. The historic, African-American-owned parlor at 32nd and King Drive is closing its doors come New Year's Eve. Griffin has played host to such final goodbyes as those of Jesse Owens and Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. It also shares in Chicago's glorious (and infamous) past, nestled on a plot that once belonged to Camp Douglas, a Civil War internment camp known for its abominable conditions. What a legacy! As it happens, initial founder Ernest Griffin discovered (after he had bought the land) that his grandfather had joined the Union Army at Camp Douglas in 1864. Ah, serendipity.
Ernest died in 1995; remaining matriarch Alyce Griffin, 89, runs the home along with her children. Alas, she's ready to retire and is unwilling to turn ownership over to anyone else, so she's selling the land on which her business is built. There will no doubt be a service for the home itself before the doors are closed forever. Chicagoist plans to raise our glass in memoriam at the stroke of the clock ... provided we haven't blacked out by then.
Image via the Illinois Institute of Technology.