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Statewide Endangered

2013 Ten Most Endangered Historic Places 

 

 

 

 

Community Mausoleums
Statewide

 

Update

 

October 2013: Beecher Mausoleum listed on National Register
Press release.pdf

National Register of Historic Places
 


 

Community mausoleums in Illinois are critically endangered due to a lack of oversight and financial support. The Beecher Mausoleum (Beecher) and the Fernwood Mausoleum (Roodhouse) are unfortunate examples of the challenges community mausoleums are facing. While committed groups of local citizens may seek to raise funds for maintenance and rehabilitation they are hindered by complicated legal regulations and policies regarding land ownership and treatment of human remains. There is a risk that the buildings, and the people interred there, will simply be abandoned.

Dozens of community mausoleums were built in the early 1900s as part of a nationwide movement to give people of moderate financial means affordable above-ground entombment. These dignified buildings were given rich stone veneers, fine metalwork and stained glass windows.

Cecil E. Bryan, a native of Irving, Illinois, is credited with designing and building over 80 community mausoleums, including Beecherís. But Bryan recognized that the business model for the development of community mausoleums was susceptible to mismanagement. Unfortunately, his fears were realized. Community mausoleum perpetual care endowments were often inadequately funded or mismanaged and governing boards disbanded or became inactive, leaving the buildings with no effective ownership.

 

There is currently no Illinois state law that adequately deals with the status of abandoned or deteriorating mausoleums. Although local governments may take ownership, budget constraints make this unlikely. A few communities have raised funds to finance rehabilitation. Others have sought to demolish their mausoleums, but the problems of locating and notifying family members of the deceased make demolition or full rehabilitation nearly impossible. There has been no uniform response to this growing problem.

 
Restoration and maintenance of these important historic structures will require both private and public resources. Owners and operators of community mausoleums would benefit from technical assistance, not only in restoration and maintenance, but also in the development of business and/or fundraising plans. Changes to state law to increase the funds available for maintenance of cemeteries would also improve the situation.

 

What You Can Do

If there is a deteriorating or abandoned community mausoleum in your area, please contact your state legislators and Landmarks Illinois.
 

 
 
 
       
 

 

 

 

Beecher Mausoleum
Horner Lane, Beecher
(Will County)

 

The Beecher Mausoleum, constructed in 1913, was designed by Cecil E. Bryan. It is a reinforced concrete structure with Bedford limestone veneer. It contains 210 crypts, 173 of which have been sold. In the mid-20th century vandals destroyed the original windows and the repairs depleted much of the endowment. Unlike most community mausoleums, the Beecher Mausoleum is located outside the adjacent church cemetery and outside the Beecher village limits. The Mausoleum is currently being maintained almost exclusively by Sandra Lee Thielman, a descendent of a person interred there, who has donated both time and money. Thielman also reorganized the dormant cemetery association for the Mausoleum to be in compliance with the Illinois Cemetery Care Act of 1993. However, according to that law, she will continually need three of six board members to live within 15 miles of the Mausoleum and this has proven to be difficult.

 

Additional Links

 

Beecher Mausoleum

Beecher Mausoleum on Facebook

Family maintaining historical mausoleum seeks funding
Chicago Tribune, November 8, 2013

Board Seeks Help Restoring 100-Year-Old Beecher Mausoleum
Russell Publications, November 1, 2012

 
         
 
 
       
 

 

 

 

 

 

Fernwood Mausoleum
Route 67 South, Roodhouse
(Greene County)

 

The Fernwood Mausoleum was built in 1914. It is a brick veneer building with Arts and Crafts detailing that suffers from lack of management and funding. As bodies have been exhumed and reburied elsewhere the building has been left with damaged interior marble and gaping holes where sealed crypts used to be. In 2006, Greene County officials created a new board to oversee restoration work on the Fernwood Mausoleum but, with little direction or funding, the board has dwindled to just two members. Portions of the exterior brick veneer are now in danger of collapsing. The local preservation advocacy group Illinois Valley Cultural Heritage Association (IVCHA) has worked for seven years to bring local attention to the deteriorating state of this historic structure.

 

Additional Links

 

Mausoleum showing its age
Pantagraph, June 24, 2007

Fernwood Mausoleum
Discover Greene County/IVCHA

 

Other Examples

 

Sunset Lawn Cemetery, Harrisburg

 

Mausoleum Nightmare Video

 

Mausoleums of DeKalb County, Indiana

 

Dekalb County's Mausoleums Unique to Area
INC NOW-TV, September 16, 2011

 

Other Resources

 

Cecil Bryan Speech, September, 1929

Cecil Bryan Community Mausoleum Brochure

Cecil Bryanís Community Mausoleums

Sidney Lovellís Community Mausoleums

 
     

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landmarks Illinois
Suite 1315
53 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604 
tel. 312-922-1742 
fax 312-922-8112

 

 

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tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1971 and is the state's leading voice for historic preservation.