CHICAGO — Mark Paul Zirngibl, in a way, sees his great-great-grandfather every day.
Zirngibl, a Portage Park native and Wisconsin resident, is the great-great-grandson of Andreas von Zirngibl, whose gravesite is guarded by concrete blocks and fences and now inside a closed metal recycling plant at 9331 S. Ewing Ave.
Zirngibl hasn't been to the gravesite since July 26, 1987, when it was renovated and rededicated through the efforts of the East Side Historical Society (now part of the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum).
He read a recent DNAinfo story on the history of the gravesite, which now includes a new marble head stone and four large concrete blocks surrounding the grave, and wanted it known he has the original old wooden grave marker in his garage.
"The old wooden grave market had been run over and split," Zirngibl said. "The grave had been severely damaged by heavy traffic in a salvage yard and restoration took almost a year. The efforts of the historical society were extensive, voluntary, and much appreciated."
It could have been damaged by one of the many vehicles that had worked on the private land that many industrial companies have owned over the years. It's currently owned by Sims Metal Management, which allows tours if interested parties call ahead.
Von Zirngibl moved to Chicago's Southeast Side in 1854, well after he had helped the Prussians defeat Napoleon in the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, where von Zirngibl also lost his right arm, according to a 1999 Tribune article. His great-great-grandson said von Zirngibl had been a fisherman while in Chicago.
"As a one-armed fisherman, he must have been pretty tough and adaptable," he said.
For decades after he died, relatives said they visited the gravesite, and in 1895 — after Calumet and Chicago Canal and Dock Company had acquired the land where the grave rested — the relatives argued against the company in the Illinois State Supreme Court. The court ruled that the company still owned the land but the von Zirngibl gravesite would remain intact and be considered a cemetery even if other companies bought the land. The family also would have access to the site, according to the Tribune.
Zirngibl said he's still a member of the historical society and would like to return to Chicago's East Side.
"I'll have to see about dragooning my wife and children into a return visit to both the Historical Society Museum and great, great gramp's grave," he said.
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