This 982-acre national cemetery, located about 50 miles southwest of Chicago, is the largest in the United States (second only to Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton, New York). Dedicated in 1999 by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration, the grounds were constructed on part of a 24,000-acre former Joliet Army Ammunition Plant, Which manufactured war material for World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars did. Much of the site was reclaimed and protected as Midwin National Tallgrass Prairie (MNTP) in the 1990s.
In 1999 Harry Weiss Associates Architects and Joe Karr and Associates Landscape Architects collaborated on the cemetery master plan with Karr as project lead. He carefully considered the topography and natural features of the site, integrating the oldest remaining virgin wood in Half Woods, Illinois, into his design. Circulation system used to connect large oak trees, various buldings and plots by circulation system for a comfortable or enjoyable drive and walk. A series of seven columbaria marks the westernmost tracts, and five columbariums in the northwest area of the site enable multiple burial ceremonies to take place simultaneously. Diagonal Road, once the primary leading route from Chicago to Springfield, retained an existing route, and a small pioneer burial ground was also preserved.
Estimated to be a four-phase project over several decades, the cemetery will provide 400,000 burial places upon completion. When Phase I of the project was efficiently completed by the first real team, Smith Group JJR was hired to lead the second team for the multidisciplinary phase. In this phase II a comprehensive storm water management system was implemented and involved the development of over 30 acres. The reintroduction of native prairie plantings included. In 2015, Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery near the MNTP became the first cemetery to have a federally approved memorial in honor of LGBTQ veterans.