Beecher Mausoleum

Quick stats

  • LOCATION: Junction of Route 1 and Horner Lane, Beecher, Will County
  • STATUS: Saved
  • BUILT: 1914
  • SITE TYPE: Cemetery
  • GEOGRAPHY: Suburban/Rural
  • OWNER AT TIME OF LISTING: Institution, Cemetery
  • THREAT: Deterioration, uncertain ownership, lack of maintenance funds and complex legal regulations.
  • CURRENT USE: Mausoleum
  • DESIGNATIONS: National Register of Historic Places (2013), Will County Historic Preservation Site
  • LI PROGRAMS & AWARDS: Recipient of Landmarks Illinois Preservation Heritage Grants in 2015
  • TAKE ACTION: Restoration work continues on the Mausoleum. Learn more and show your support.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Historic Significance

The Beecher Mausoleum, constructed in 1913, was one of these sites. Designed by Cecil E. Bryan, the Beecher Mausoleum features reinforced concrete with Bedford limestone veneer and contains 210 crypts, 173 of which are occupied. 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 an adjacent church cemetery and outside the Beecher Village limits. In 2013, the Mausoleum was being maintained almost exclusively by private citizen Sandra Lee Thielman, a descendent of several family members interred there.

“The Beecher Mausoleum has come to mean so much more to me, than simply as the burial place for my ancestors,” Thielman recounted. “On that first trip some eighteen years ago, I had envisioned my earlier memories as a child, when my family went to pay our respects to those that had passed on. I remembered the mausoleum as a big, white, glorious building that made me feel respect and reverence. But when I saw it again, in what was then the present, it didn’t match my memory…The building had been abandoned and vandalized; some of its white marble was simply destroyed while some was discolored by fire and graffiti. Bullet holes in the glass block windows and the limestone exterior. Some of the graves were desecrated. Though mortified, I was inspired and decided to do whatever it took to bring it back to its former glory.”

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Threat at Time of Listing – 2013

By 2013, Thielman had already donated significant amounts of her own time and money to the mausoleum’s conservation, completing much work on her own or with the help of family members. She 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, which proved to be quite difficult to maintain, stalling many necessary repair efforts. Absent a statewide champion, Landmarks Illinois included the Beecher Mausoleum and historic community mausoleums across the state on its 2013 Most Endangered list to bring awareness to the challenges these important cultural and architectural resources face.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Preservation Efforts

Following its listing on LI’s Most Endangered program, LI Board Member Jack Tribbia and numerous trade unions helped to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars’worth of pro-bono stabilization work for Beecher Mausoleum. Since 2013, Thielman and community members have continued to stabilize and repair the Mausoleum and secure further financial support. The building has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Discussions with state legislators and officials have also begun in order to address any possible legislative measures that could assist communities with these monuments in need of care.

“I almost gave up not too long ago,” said Thielman. “I would have too, had it not been for Landmark Illinois who breathed new life into both me and into the restoration project of the Beecher Mausoleum by bringing recognition to it as one of the state’s most endangered places.  Without them the biggest part, the hardest part of the restoration would never have happened. I was just not capable of complete roof and masonry restorations, but Landmarks Illinois stepped up to the plate and brought the needed experts to the project and the Beecher Mausoleum is on its way to complete restoration. I’m no longer alone.”

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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