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Five Generations of Chicago Memorialists

Gast Monuments has its roots firmly planted in the City of Chicago. Founded in 1880, the original stone company then known as Buscher & Gast, was located on North Clark Street. The company provided cemetery monuments as well as cut-stone for the building boom resulting from the Great Chicago Fire. Many of the familiar walk-up Victorian “Brownstones” in the Lakeview and Ravenswood neighborhoods feature the use of limestone and granite furnished by Buscher & Gast. The company also supplied ornamental cut-stone and statuary in marble, limestone and granite seen in several Chicago area churches such as St. Henry’s Church in Chicago and St. Nicholas Church in Evanston.

Engelbert Gast (originally) emigrated from the Bavarian town of Fuessen in Germany. As a young sculptor and stone carver, he worked with the acclaimed artist Leonard Volk, whose studio was located at the corner of State and Washington streets. After joining Buscher, Engelbert focused on the use of marble, limestone and granite to produce memorial and sculptural work. He used the readily available Indiana Bedford limestone to carve sculptures of broken trees, incorporating forest flora and fauna typical of the Victorian era. One of his most well-known memorials is a perfectly scaled carving of a railroad car commemorating the life of George Bangs, designer of the first post office railway car.

In 1906, Engelbert’s son Joseph bought Christian Buscher’s share of the business and renamed it Joseph F. Gast Monumental Works. Joseph changed the company’s focus from providing stone for building materials to the design and carving of memorials. After serving in World War I, Joseph’s son Bert C. Gast who studied at the Art Institute of Chicago joined his father in the family business. Bert continued to refine the business focus on individual memorial design.

One of Bert’s children, Bert J. Gast, eventually joined the business in 1949 to continue the multi-generational business. Having trained at the Barre School of Memorial Art, Bert J. brought his own brand of creative design to the memorial business. With his father’s business and sales experience, Bert J. was able to pursue and develop a new market for his creativity by concentrating on designing major memorial art for churches and cemeteries. In conjunction with artists and sculptors, Bert designed and created shrines for the Catholic Cemeteries using materials ranging from granite to bronze to Cor-ten steel, fiberglass and ceramics.

Bert’s enthusiasm, dedication and creativity changed the family business. His belief that each memorial can reflect the essence of a particular person, family or event has led Gast Monuments to be well-known for their custom work.

Gast Monuments has designed memorials for some of Chicago’s most well known citizens — Albert Cardinal Meyer, Mies van der Rohe, Richard J. Daley, Ruth Page, Monsignor F. McElligott, the Daniel Burnham family and Jean Baptiste du Sable. Public memorials in the Chicago area include the Holocaust Memorial in Skokie, the American-Assyrian Veteran Memorial in Elmwood Park and the memorial commemorating the Our Lady of Angels School fire in 1958.

Today — the Fifth Generation

Bert’s sons — Thomas, John and James — have kept the focus on the essentials of a successful business: designing and providing a quality product with attention to detail. They continue to design and manufacture unique personalized memorials. Like their predecessors they have expanded the business into new areas such as architectural signage. Gast Monuments has carved lettering in stone at several well known Chicago locations — Millenium Park, Soldier Field, Prudential Plaza, the Robert J. Lurie Research Center and the Gold Star Memorial Park. They also continue to provide unique sculpture for public and private parks including The Grove Nature Center in Glenview and the Skokie Park District.

Gast Monuments is proud of its family heritage and its connection to Chicago’s history. We are committed to providing quality craftsmanship, creative design and personal service. You are welcome to visit our studios and carving facility to learn about the art of stone carving and view the process of how a memorial is made.

 

 


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