A trip back to West Laurel Hill today surfaced some new wonders. It is such a rich hunting ground that I exclaimed to my wife at one point “this place is the Vatican Museum of cemeteries!” Here’s the Ott mausoleum, which ought to please you as much as it did me (figure 1).

Figure 1. Lambert Ott mausoleum. West Laurel Hill cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

The exterior is fairly nondescript, employing the rustic face look with salient classical elements (pediment, door frame, columns, steps, podium) in more polished stone.

Yet there is a jewel inside, a stained glass portrait of Adolene O. Pursell, daughter of Lambert (figure 2).

Figure 2. Lambert Ott mausoleum. Detail: rear stained glass window with portrait of Adolene O. Pursell (née Adolene F. Ott). West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

It was impossible to scootch my camera around to get a shot of her anagraphic inscription, but ancestry dot com came to the rescue with a record of her as the first wife of Stanley H. Pursell. She was born on 12 September 1892 and died on 26 October 1916, at the age of 24 years. Her father, Lambert Ott, clearly had money; her husband Stanley was a partner in D.E. Pursell and son, insurance managers for Aetna.

She was clearly the “reason for the season” in building the monument, even if Lambert gets top billing on the marquee; she died in 1916 and the mausoleum is dated to 1917. Lambert, born in Missouri in 1857, was last censused in 1930, when he was 73 years old. He was an M.D.

Adolene died young, therefore, and occasioned the building of the Ott mausoleum by her father. One imagines that childbirth might have been the culprit. No surviving children were mentioned in the records, so if childbirth took her, it took the child as well.

Adolene’s portrait was painted on a single piece of glass shaped to form those parts of her body above the neckline of her dress. She wears a white dress with a blue pattern (a handsome, delicate pattern), and around her shoulders is a capacious white ermine stole. The portrait is the equivalent of a bust, and it is a vignette in a tall elliptical frame. The background in the vignette consists of painted trees, blue sky visible between the branches, and clouds in the sky above that. It’s a fine performance. The glass between the vignette and the external frame of the window is simple geometry, though it features quite attractive mixed colors. I don’t believe any of it is iridescent.

The face is long with a prominent chin and nose. She looks directly at the viewer. Her cheeks have the blush of youth in them, and her arching brows have fairly prominent eyebrows. There seems to be a hint of a second chin, although the face seems reasonably thin. The hair is one of those matronly pulled up masses possibly with a bun in the back, textured with curls that frame the face in a roughly circular shape. The image of Adolene seems to me obviously painted from a photograph. I would compare it with the Chung portraits, about which I have written here.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Arlington, VA

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