The Couch Tomb is the last above-ground reminder of Lincoln Park’s earlier history as the Chicago City Cemetery. Ira Couch (1806–1857) moved to Chicago from New York City with his brother James Couch (1800–1892) in 1836. After operating a store together for a year, they leased the Tremont House at Lake Street and Dearborn Street, and the brothers became innkeepers.
Although the original building burned down, they ran several subsequent hotels that used the Tremont name.
Ira Couch hired John M. Van Osdel, the city’s first professional architect, to design a family mausoleum in the Chicago City Cemetery. Osdel, who had moved here from New York City, was architect of Chicago’s first City Hall and the Couch’s 1850 Tremont House. Ira Couch and several other members of the Couch family were interred in the mausoleum.
It is not entirely clear as to why the Couch Tomb was left behind. It seems likely; however, that surviving Couch family members thought it too expensive to move the fifty-ton structure to another cemetery. By 1899, the Lincoln Park Commissioners asserted that ". . . it would be impossible to remove the vault, except at great expense, and the Commissioners preferred to allow it to remain as an interesting reminder of the Park’s origin."
In 1999, through the auspices of the Parkways Foundation, the Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust donated approximately $100,000 to clean and tuck-point the tomb, recreate its original ornamental fencing, and install lighting for nighttime illumination.