The Harrington portrait

Figure 1. Harrington mausoleum. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

The Harrington mausoleum in West Laurel Hill (figure 1) is quite a long way along the path from early 20th century neoclassicism towards modernism. Classical elements have been pared away and etiolated to the point that columns which might have framed the doorway are reduced to flat etched geometrical lines, the capitals now simple quadratic floral designs, the architrave a mere line marked by little cubes like dentils. Of course, the artist has buried Latin crosses in the art deco floral capitals—it’s almost impressionistic the way a column is evoked.

Figure 2. Harrington mausoleum. Detail: door and frame. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

Figure 2 gives greater detail and reveals that the door, while it has little panels with florals or crosses, reads at any distance like an abstract geometric pattern of horizontals and verticals like a mesh with door frames around the mesh and rectangular panels at every crossing of a vertical and a horizontal. The architect has played in dividing the verticals and horizontals into striated bands of smaller lines, and the horizontals pick up the horizontal “flutes” of the notional columns framing the door. Again, the top panels, with their crosses, pick up and echo the panels forming the “capitals” of the columns.

Figure 3. Harrington mausoleum. Detail: partial interior with window and portrait. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

And if you thought there was the least possibility that these design elements fell into place by chance, see how they have been systematically repeated in the stained glass window (figure 3), which I regret I was unable to photograph in its entirety. But in any event, the panels here mirror and echo those on the door.

Needless to say, my interest is focused on what seems to be the funerary portrait of a junior member of the Harrington family (figure 4).

Figure 4. Harrington mausoleum. Detail: funerary portrait. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

Before getting to the portrait itself, I have to ask aloud, what on earth is going on with this girl’s papal tiara with the triple crown and lappets? This is the oddest portrait I’ve yet seen, I think. I suppose that cone atop could be a mass of coiled hair.

In any event, this female face is oval with a pointed chin. The shape of the face betrays no signs of age. The mouth has large lips in a gentle smile, the nose is straight and long; the eyes are gently closed. The head is cast down slightly and lightly averted to the right. Large chunky locks fall onto the forehead from the cone of hair above, with a broad fork over the nose. Locks hide almost all of both ears, and long locks fall, one on each side, to the shoulders in mannered curves that recall traditional depictions of ribbons notionally flapping in the breeze as a decorative element.

With the exception of the bangs and the two curving locks mentioned, the hair has been gathered into a thick mass and coiled above the head, held in place by a wide ribbon coming round the head just above the forehead. The end of the ribbon are the lappets I mentioned above.

The figure has a low neckline and wears a three-piece pendant on a (maybe) pearl necklace. The impression of youthfulness is supported by the cut of the dress and the undeveloped bust. There is a rose at the center of the neckline which may carry the idea of life cut short (the rose broken or cut from its stem is a cliché for this idea). The dress tightly wraps the torso below the bust, and the figure is trimmed in a V shape of diagonals that descend from just outside the shoulder down to about the bottom of the sternum.

Avery D. Harrington was born in 1858 took on several careers (including a 4-year stint as a public school principal in Delaware), before he became an attorney, and died in 1925. The death certificate at ancestry dot com says he was taken to West Laurel Hill. His wife, Emma, died in 1933. West Laurel Hill has a record stating that Avery Harrington was buried in 1937. Harrington had a public school in Philadelphia, at 53rd and Baltimore, named for him in 1928.

There was an Avery Draper Harrington, jr., who was born in 1899 and went to Swarthmore. There, as a junior in 1922, he was quoted saying, “a crank is a little thing that makes revolutions,” in The Halcyon, which was the junior year yearbook. I note with approval that he was in the Classical Club. He became a doctor and died in 1969. The latter’s son, Louis Draper Harrington, born 1939, was a judge. Louis’s wedding announcement in the Friends Journal for 01 August 1966 states that he and his parents were Quakers based at the Lansdowne, PA, Meeting. It seems he is still alive and living in Rockville, MD. Hi, Louis! What’s up with the portrait in the family mausoleum? He had several children. Nowhere do I find a likely, prematurely dead female member of the family listed.

My guess, based solely upon the dates, is that Avery Harrington, jr., caused the mausoleum in question to he built when his mother died, and when it was finished had his father, who had been buried at West Laurel Hill in 1925, exhumed and put in the mausoleum with her. Certainly the 1937 date fits with the etiolated Art Deco style. The style of the portrait bust seems to me to long antedate the building of the mausoleum; this comes as close as I can find to the scenario where a descendant removed an ancestral bust to the family crypt.

Egyptian revival delux(or)

Figure 1. Klein mausoleum. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

The P.M. Klein mausoleum (figure 1) is, from the outside, only a little different from half a dozen others at West Laurel Hill Cemetery. Full points are given for the bundled papyrus reed columns, which are slightly rarer than the regular lotus-themed ones. The Lennig mausoleum in Laurel Hill (figure 2) is another example, although it is very streamlined and employs a striking onionskin marble to dramatic effect.

Figure 2. Lennig mausoleum. Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA. Photo: author.

Mad props, too, go to Klein for purchasing the “extended pack” of revival decorations, exampled here by the ankh door pull (figure 3).

Figure 3. Klein mausoleum. Detail: door pull in form of ankh. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

Though due credit ought to be given to the Drake mausoleum with its sly smiling COBRA HANDLE! (figure 4)

Figure 4. Drake mausoleum. Detail: door handle. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

But if the Klein mausoleum stands out against its Egyptian revival brethren, it’s in its magnificent stained glass window (figure 5), which is, in my experience to date, unique.

Figure 5. Klein mausoleum. Detail: rear stained glass window. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

The window has clearly been assembled using some ready-made pieces for the borders and the horizontal band at the bottom. Very nice, even there, is the brownish sand coloring. Also, the winged solar disc with uraeus snakes at top, usually found over the doors of these revival mausolea (including this one), really pops with the red art glass for the solar disc.

But of course your attention was immediately seized by the wonderful desert scene with pyramids and fallen column. I suppose this could be read a couple of different ways. I see it as the wreck of the mortal body in the column, mirrored by the twilight in the sky signifying the end of life. But against the dying of the light, so to speak, is the promise of immortality symbolized by the pyramids. And where a column has fallen, life, in the form of a palm tree, springs up.

The window can thus be read in a thoroughly Christian vein (as its 19th century proprietors no doubt wished), but the commissioners had the courage of their convictions to let symbols native to the Egyptian revival architecture they had chosen do the work for them, rather than (as one occasionally sees) add a last-minute, panicky cross or something into the picture, spoiling it.

Some of the glass in the central image is painted, I think, like the fallen column capital, the tree trunks, and the pyramids, but the most striking effects are created with art glass that has been mixed and fired to create very, very attractive streaked effects, or an alabaster look. I particularly like the sky as it transitions through several colors between a yellow gold to a blue with hints of turquoise.

Good work, Klein! Thanks for paying the little extra to leave us something beautiful to find!

Unhappy surprise

Figure 1. Jackson mausoleum. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

The simple but attractive gothic mausoleum of the Jackson family inhabits a plot sitting on a tongue of land between two forking streets at West Laurel Hill. Figure 1 shows it on a Saturday morning in early autumn. It offers a charming surprise inside, and a gloomy one, too.

Figure 2. Jackson mausoleum. Detail: stained glass window in rear. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

The window in figure 2 is the charming surprise. The pair of three white verticals is the unavoidable reflection of the front door. Otherwise, the window is engaging both in execution (presumably it’s painted inside the glass like those arts and crafts lampshades) and in what it tells us about the Jackson family—or its patriarch at any rate. If you scent just a bit of “the hunt” on top of “country” and “animals,” I do, too. It’s charming to find something so revealing instead of the sometimes excellent but almost always conventional religious themes.

But a grim and sad surprise awaits once one’s eyes have become accustomed to the dark interior. There is an inscription on a little “altar” against the rear wall beneath the window (figure 3).

Figure 3. Jackson mausoleum. Detail: “altar” with ash urn and inscription. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

This is not the same person commemorated twice, but two babies Jackson who were expected to live so short a time they were not given names. The first lived just over a week; the second at most one day. And the grimmest part of all: the second baby Jackson was born nine months almost to the day after the first was born and died. How the parents must have felt hardly bears thinking about. That box on top of the altar is an ash urn.

Hurrah for Harrah!

Figure 1. Harrah mausoleum. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

This simple cross-gabled chapel with gothic gew-gaws on it houses the mortal remains of Charles Jefferson Harrah and his wife Anna Margaret. Born in Philadelphia in 1817, he died there in 1890; she was born in London in 1820 and died in Philadelphia in 1885. That was prime time for gew-gaws. After having made a fortune in Brazil in the mid-19th century, the Harrahs retired to Philadelphia and were buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery.

This mausoleum is quite ambitious, sitting on Everglades 1 plot in the cemetery, a very large round surrounded by a street and therefore emphatically cut off from the surrounding ragamuffin dead. I was quite disappointed that the door of the mausoleum was nearly shut to peekers like me. However, there was just enough space for me to insanely squeeze my iPhone into a slight opening in order to discover and (luckily) photograph the two wonderful funerary portraits within. So please forgive the mediocre photography.

Light falling in the interior shows there is a stained glass window on the rear wall. Below that appears to be a mass which holds the coffins of the two inhabitants. I only saw the edge of that. But recessed into the wall to either side of and above this mass are two niches furnished with plinths and sized for portrait busts. We have an intentional display of portraits, therefore, somewhat similar to the situation in John Bowman’s 1881 Laurel Glen mausoleum in Cuttingsville, VT. In fact, Rachel Wolgemuth, in the volume West Laurel Hill (see bibliography below), states that Harrah bought the plot in 1881 and specified, among other things, that he be allowed to supervise construction. Put another way, everything about this mausoleum was in accordance with his wishes.

I cannot say whether the Harrah busts were created for this tomb, or were repurposed from a domestic setting to the tomb when the latter was built. At the very least I think we can conclude that the two were carved at the same time by the same hand, or by two hands from the same workshop. The close similarity in the dimensions, the amount of the body included in the bust, the style of the carving, and the shape and height of the bust feet all suggest this.

Were they created to fill the niches, to which they are rather precisely adapted in size? I suspect so. Harrah doubtlessly built the mausoleum between 1881 and 1890, since we know he supervised construction. A likely starting point was when his wife died in 1885. I therefore think that he had the busts created from photographs in this time, and had niches created in the mausoleum of dimensions to fit the planned busts.

Reading from left to right, let’s start with Anna Margaret (figure 2). The bust extends to nearly the diaphragm. The corpulent face is visually counterbalanced (and made to seem thinner) by the mass of the wrap that swoops from shoulder to shoulder exposing the neckline of the figure’s dress. The broad swaths of cloth remind me of a toga, although the cloth is given folds that betray a thick and heavy fabric. It has no seams or patterns carved into it, so I think it is a prop to give the massing the sculptor wanted rather than a real piece of late-19th century clothing.

The face of the figure is elongated oval, I think. the chin boss, ears, and nose are prominent: typical signs of age. The eyes are about half closed in a look of intent interest. There is a pouch under the eye I can see, and the eyebrows and forehead are not contracted. Naso-labial forlds and some texturing of the jowls to indicate fat also mark age, as does the falling second chin. The mouth is lightly closed, with a long upper lip and pronounced philtrum. Below the second chin the neck is smooth, as is the small part of the upper chest visible above the neckline of the dress.

The hair is very long but has been gathered in four masses into long locks that have been braided, pulled back, and rolled into a bun. An attempt to indicate strands of hair has been made in the four masses pulled back from the forehead. Such a hairdo implies free time and servants, of course.

The figure’s dress pops up just a little above the top swoop of the cover, and a strap can be seen over the shoulder. The front neckline has been energized with a series of ruffles. The figure also wears a pendant on a cloth band which is too loose to be called a choker. I cannot distinguish the nature of the pendant. Finally, the gaze of the figure appears to be direct and aimed at the bust of Charles Jefferson across the room (figure 3).

The bust, like that of Anna Margaret, is generously massed and extends down to almost the bottom of the sternum. In this case, the figure is clearly wearing period clothing, the mass of which balances the figure’s large mass of beard. The nose is prominent, as are the earlobes, signs of age. There are pouches under the eyes, and the texturing of the forehead gives the figure a further sign of age. There are crow’s feet, and a fold right between the eyebrows. The figure has the eyes slightly closed in an intent gaze straight ahead: it looks at the other figure reciprocally. This strikes me as being another piece of evidence that the two busts were purpose-built for this architectural scheme— contrary to what I believe I see here, busts often have their gazes slightly averted.

The hair recedes from the forehead and at the temple. It has been textured most strongly in those areas visible from a frontal view: over the forehead, at the temples. The rest of the hair is summarily sketched in. The beard is enormous and shaggy, with a floppy mustache above. In looking at the photograph of him in the West Laurel Hill volume, I think that the sculpted beard is rather larger than life and meant to add imposing weight to the head.

The figure wears a shirt with a small upturned and out-folded tip collar. It’s notional softness is revealed by the treatment of the cloth around the buttons. There is a bow tie barely visible beneath the beard.

Over the shirt is a vest with a lapel; no buttons can be seen on it. Over the vest is a thick coat with gentle folds. Seams can be made out and just a hint of pick-stitching. In the buttonhole of the lapel is a boutonniere: ribbon, small pair of flowers, or something else, I cannot say.

So Anna Margaret and Charles Jefferson stare at each other through eternity here, in life-sized busts in their tomb. It would not surprise me at all if it could be shown that Harrah was influenced by Bowman at Laurel Glen, though that is pure speculation. Laurel Glen was immensely famous. I do think that the evidence points to these busts being bespoke creations for this tomb’s special architectural arrangement, even if, as I stated above, I cannot state it as a fact.

In any event, the Harrah mausoleum is a landmark example of a mausoleum featuring programmatic display of portraits of the deceased in the mode desired and planned by the commissioner.

Bibliographical note.
Wolgemuth, R. West Laurel Hill. A Visual Walk Through A Historic American Cemetery, edited by H. Mensing (2008: West Laurel Hill Company, Bala Cynwyd, PA.)

Adolene, sweet Adolene

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.

Two splendid funerary portraits

An impromptu visit to Rock Creek Cemetery yesterday turned up an unexpected treasure: the double-portrait monument of the Thompson and Harding families (figures 1, 2). This rich, rich monument deserves every moment of a close look.

The monument itself, best seen in figure 1, is a tall rustic cross notionally set upon irregularly massed rustic blocks. On the east half, however, the rustic stone has been cut down into a series of three high steps. For scale, the portraits are life-sized. Both figures stand on the top step.

A rough cubic block on the west side bears the names of the two families, Thompson on the male figure’s side, and Harding on the female figure’s. Both names are carved in relief in rustic log font. Close examination shows that they were cut by different hands (figures 3, 4). The letters of the Thompson cutter are less rough-hewn, and have bark that is more scaly.

The male figure is presumably the patriarch of the Thompson family, N. Elbridge Thompson (1843-1904: figure 6). His wife was Ellen J. Thompson (1852-1905: figure 5). They both have markers in front of the Thompson (south) side of the monument.

The Harding (north) side of the monument has the markers of William H. Harding (1846-1898: figure 7), and Lillie May Harding (1871-1897: figure 8) daughter of William H. and S. Elizabeth Harding. Lillie May’s real name appears to have been Mary L. Harding; she became Mary L. Cooley at marriage. All the markers, by the way, are cylindrical and have rolled off of their bases and been carelessly replaced.

I did not see a marker for S. Elizabeth Harding; nor is it perfectly clear what the connection between the two families was. A guess (and no more) is that she was a sister of Ellen J. Thompson. For example, on the second step on the north face of the monument there is the inscription, “Erected by Ellen J. Thompson and S. Elizabeth Harding.” These two outlived all the others (even if only by a year in one case) and pooled their resources to craft a monument to their lost family members.

I propose, therefore, that the youthful female figure on the north side is a portrait of Lillie May Harding. Late 1904 or early 1905 would make sense for the commissioning of the monument, since Ellen J. died in the latter year. S. Elizabeth’s year of death is given as 1921 here. Ellen chose to portray her husband, lost the year before, Elizabeth her daughter, lost about 8 years before.

Figure 9. N. Elbridge Thompson portrait, Thompson-Harding monument. Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

The Thompson portrait looks like it was either created about 10 years before he died at about age 61, or was created after his death for this monument from a suitable photograph. The hand resting on the bible points to a funerary intent in, and thus posthumous creation of, the portrait. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The male portrait is freestanding, life-sized, in white marble. The statue is mortared to the granite fabric of the monument. The figure stands next to a short, rough-hewn stone pillar; the figure’s left hand rests slightly closed on an open book which sits upon the pillar. The statue is badly weathered.

Figure 12. N. Elbridge Thompson portrait. Detail: face. Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.
Figure 13. Eastman Johnson, posthumous portrait of Chester A. Arthur (1887). Public domain (published before 1924). Wikimedia Commons.

Thanks to its whiskers, the face has a square outline (figure 12). The mutton chops with bare chin remind one of Chester A. Arthur (figure 13), which might point to the 1880s as a likely decade for the original of the image. The face is unfortunately marred by lichen on the west side. A strong brow ridge is reinforced by deep undercutting that throws the area into shadow. The eyes work with the play of light because the irises are sunken and shadowed while the pupils stand out. The gaze is slightly averted to the left; the forehead is smooth.

The hair is receding up the forehead and visibly at the left temple. The right temple is masked by a lock of hair. The treatment of the hair is generally impressionistic, as the locks are rendered into puffy, ill-defined outlines. Further, the articulation of the hair into locks is effectively confined to those areas visible to the casual viewer from the front. The rest of the head has only very sketchy indications of any sort of texture.

The face is thin, and the neck lacks signs of adipose. There do not seem to be prominent signs of age, though the face is bony (see the cheek bones and the boss of the chin, besides the heavy brows). The nose is of medium length, and has a slight outward “ski-jump” at the end. The root of the nose is lightly sunk below the level of the surface of the forehead.

The head, like the eyes within it, is averted slightly to the left. The body rests its weight on the left leg, with the right slightly flexed. The right arm is brought up sharply and the right hand made into a loose fist at the level of the mid-lapel, which is grasped between the palm and the last three fingers.

The body is not corpulent and thinness is emphasized everywhere by prominent loose folds in the heavy yet pliant cloth of the coat, the vest, and the pants. The coat is so thick that the lapel rolls outward. It is daringly thin because it is undercut. The seams in the garments are visible. The thin right forearm and hand extend from loose cuffs of the coat and the shirt. The arm is deeply cut into the sleeve giving the illusion of depth, whereas the hand itself reveals its sinews.

Figure 14. Thompson-Harding monument. Detail: torso of male figure. Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

The buttons of the coat and the vest are covered with cloth; the vest has a shawl lapel, and a watch chain is prominently visible. The lapel button hole is empty, and the slender gorgets sit high. The collar of the shirt is turned down and is visibly loose around the neck. The bow tie is loose and flops down. The left arm falls in a graceful arc and the hand rests, as mentioned, on an open Bible. The pants have a strong break over the shoes and nearly hit the ground behind the heel. The man appears to have dressed to the left. The toe of the shoe is square, and the leather has gentle folds that look like cordovan.

The rear of the statue has been finished so as to mate it with mortar to the rough stone of the granite cross. The cross has been lightly shaped to receive the back of the head, torso, and left arm: see figures 10 and 11.

Figure 15. Thompson-Harding monument. Female figure, frontal. Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

The wonderful female figure on the Harding side of the monument (figure 15) was unfortunately facing in the wrong direction for the light when I visited. Further, it is badly weathered and desperately needs a cleaning. Still, I think some progress can be made.

The pose is a contrapposto with the weight on the left leg. The torso is turned a bit to the right, the head more so and inclined downward. The arms are held away from the body at shallow angles, the left hand holding a stalk of lilies, the right a blooming lily flower. The figure’s gaze appears to be fixed on the flower.

Numerous signs point to the youth of the figure. The cloth of the flowing gown gives the impression of heaviness yet has been carved to reveal a supple, thin female figure underneath. The clinging treatment of the cloth around the breasts as though it were wet is an old trick to emphasize their youthfulness. Belly, hips, hands and shoulders are likewise evident and signify youth.

Figure 18. Thompson-Harding monument, north (female) figure, torso and long lock of hair. Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

The hair, in extravagently long curls, cascades over the shoulders, and one lock falls on the front right as far as the top of the thigh. It’s mannered, since hair that long would be heavy enough to pull the corkscrew curls out. The twist of the curl echoes the turn of the figure.

The long face emerges from the mass of hair. It is thin and conventionally attractive, but the dirt, wear, and lichen make it difficult to say much beyond that it is a youthful face. Some sense of the face’s delicate features can be made out in profile (figure 19).

Figure 19. Thompson-Harding monument, north (female) figure, left profile. Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

The long, mannered treatment of the figure’s curls is, as I noted above, echoed in the turn of the figure. The gown similarly contributes to this energy through two prominent twisting folds, one coming up from the left hip under the left breast, the other up from between the knees, past the groin, to the end of the lock on the right (figures 15, 19).

The most notable effect of the statue, however, is the long, long train of the dress that falls nearly a meter beyond her feet on the top step and cascades down onto the next step and laps over it onto the riser (figure 15). This treatment seems to me to suggest a couple of different effects. First, it is not a practical dress. Any attempt at movement would send her tripping. The notion, I guess, is that she is in a place now where such practical considerations no longer hold.

Yet evidently the otherworld does have a liking for rich fabrics and embroidered flowers, for not only above the bodice but at the bottom hemline the cutter has sketched in a rich embroidery pattern (figures 20-22). On top of that, the sculptor selected a marble with streaks that give the broad expanses of cloth coloristic effects (figure 23). To be sure, no real dress of 1905 would have been patterned with marble-streak coloration! But that kind of pragmatic thinking spoils this deliberate effect.

To return to my point, the other effect that the long train seems to me to produce is to free the figure from the ground. The long train visually anchors the statue on step two, so to speak, and the logic of the human figure dictates that it is standing on the third step (figure 15). Yet we have no indication of the lower legs or feet behind the voluminous folds, with the result that the figure seems to float, or rise above the ground level. This makes sense in the Christian setting of the monument.

The lilies (figures 16, 17) are stock Christian symbols of Easter and resurrection. Here I’m pretty sure they allude to Lillie, the name of the portrait’s subject, too. Further, if we read into the statue’s pose, there is a little story in that she’s got a lily stalk from which she’s plucked a fresh flower. This sort of thing—plucked flowers, or a broken stem—are common ways of expressing an early death in the freshness of youth. Lillie May Harding died at the age of 26 (figure 8), which makes the identification of her as the subject of this portrait irresistible to me.

A final observation. The statue of Lillie and that of N. Elbridge appear to be from the same hand, which would support the idea that they were created together in about 1905. See the resemblance in the impressionistic, puffy treatment of the hair (cf. figures 12, 18, 19) and the thin cutting of the drapes of cloth (cf. figures 14, 17), for example.

The Thompson-Harding monument therefore has two funerary portraits which were created specifically for the monument and were not, it seems, repurposed from a domestic setting. It seems possible to date the commissioning (if not necessarily the completion) of the monument to 1904-1905, a year after one of the persons commemorated died and seven years after the other one did. The monument was the product of two families whose survivors may have been a sister to the survivor or one of the other people buried in the plot. My inclination, as I stated above, is to see Ellen J. Thompson and S. Elizabeth Harding as sisters; but that needn’t be the case: maybe they were best pals.

Bibliographical note. Many of the conclusions reached here were already proposed by James M. Goode in his indispensable Washington Sculpture (2008, Johns Hopkins Press: Baltimore), p. 422. The Smithsonian’s catalog of public art derives from Goode’s first edition of 1974, and all the other sites (e.g., Wikipedia, Find-a-grave) derive from Goode or the Smithsonian.

The Chung funerary portraits

Figure 1. Chung mausoleum. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

Here is the attractive mausoleum (figure 1) of the Chung family, in Columbia Gardens Cemetery in Arlington, VA. It is quite recent.

I’d call the design here neo-baroque. The baroque is, among many other things, stagey. I mean that literally: it tries to impress and astound us with a variety of tricks, and often it treats architecture as a sort of stage set.

Figure 2. Chung mausoleum, rear. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

So, for example, you can see that not much is going on in the rear of the building (figure 2). The water table course in rusticated stone is carried around from the façade, but otherwise we have barren, polished flat surfaces, with no attempt to carry through the columned details of the front. It’s also clear that the little ‘wings’ jutting out at ground level from the edges of the façade are merely flat extensions that have been glued to the building and have no structural purpose.

So, looking at figure 1 again:

Figure 1 (repeat). Chung mausoleum. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

We see that almost all of the architect’s effort has gone into creating an interesting façade. The barren treatment of the rear could have been carried through the front, as well, yet the designer has chosen to create a lively interplay of colors, textures, and shapes, and has drawn from a palette of false elements (remember those ‘wings’ sticking off the sides of the front) to achieve an impressive effect.

First, consider the geometry of the approach. The benches and, more importantly, the pathway establish a set of converging lines (thanks to perspective) that center on the doorway, and the space within the mausoleum. The columns, ‘wings,’ rays from the sun, patterns on the doors, centered name, and the pediment support this by their symmetry. So do the two rough-hewn verticals on either side of the door frame.

Figure 3. Chung mausoleum. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

If you look closely at figure 3, you will see that the rusticated verticals are not parallel to the façade but recede as they approach the axis of symmetry, creating an angled setback that further emphasizes the door. The lighter color of the rusticated verticals, which contrasts with the speckled polished taupe of the rest of the façade, aids in putting the emphasis on the entry.

Yet were you to get close to the façade you would see that the columns are caulked (that is, effectively glued) to the walls (figure 4).

Figure 4. Chung mausoleum. Detail: caulked attachment of engaged columns. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

The notion behind a column is that it is supporting something, like an architrave. Yet we commonly find walls supporting the roof with fake ‘engaged’ columns, effectively half columns doing nothing structural, left ‘standing’ on the outer side of the functioning walls. In fact, they are just vertical bosses in the shape of half-columns which haven’t been cut away from the otherwise flat wall.

Visually these add bling and may just fool someone into thinking that something much more costly is going on than really is. Our architect has gone one step cheaper: Onto the big empty polished slabs of granite which make up the walls of the façade she or he has caulked appliqué granite half-columns. Much cheaper than carving slabs with stone in the shape of columns still a part of it. The innermost parts of the wall slabs were then ‘shaved’ by being ground down into those matte verticals, and the ‘wings’ that frame the façade and make it ‘pop’ were added. Cumulatively all of these staged effects act like a drumroll as we look at, approach, and then open the door to the mausoleum.

Figure 5. Il Gesù, façade. Rome, IT. Photo: Alessio Damato. CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons.

I’m pretty sure the ‘wings’ allude to the famous scrolls on the Gesù in Rome or one of the countless other baroque counter-reformation churches copying it across Europe. You can see them in figures 5 and 6, where they are scrolls to the sides of the second story of the façade. To save cost, our architect has reduced them to slabs bounded by straight lines or shallow curves (figure 7). The scrolls do no more on the façade of the Gesù than the ‘wings’ do on the Chung mausoleum: it’s all stage-setting. I admit I like the way the outermost vertical face of the wings are rusticated like the water table course.

All of the foregoing serves to set the stage for our entrance into the mausoleum, and for the surprise that awaits us on-axis there: the Chungs’ portraits in stained glass (figure 8).

Figure 8. Chung portraits. Chung mausoleum. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

The Chungs have done something you hardly ever see, which is to have their portraits in the customary rear window of their mausoleum. What’s more, they’ve had them executed, probably digitally, from a photograph (figures 8, 10). The one previous stained glass portrait I’ve encountered, in the Artman mausoleum in West Laurel Hill (figure 9), was certainly painted by an artist in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.

Figure 9. Artman mausoleum portrait window. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

Maybe the Chung portrait is a copy of a single photograph of them both, or it maybe it’s a combination of two portraits that gave what the artist felt was the most flattering view of each. However that may be, the couple is posed leaning toward one another as a symbol of marriage and comity. The fictive part of the window (sky, clouds, landscape, flowers) is done in simple, even primitive style, in contrast to the couple. Their faces unsurprisingly have photographic realism, as does her neck with the very fine detail of the pendant cross. Because I think the facial features and hair were not artistic choices, I will not offer my usual formal description. Nevertheless, the choice of picture(s) to use was genial.

The clothing, which is also very summarily designed into only a few large glass pieces, may or may not repeat what was in the photographic source(s). For what it is worth, looking closely, I believe that the suit and the dress have both been painted in a relatively simple style. The simple, large flowers on the dress seem to me to consciously echo the big simple flowers in the landscape (though the ones on the dress are in a different style suited to a fabric. His tie is wild.

Figure 10. Chung mausoleum interior. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington. VA. Photo: author.

Figure 10 is poor in that the bronze pattern on the door did not allow me to get a photograph of the entire interior. The photo is skewed to the left side of the room. The transmitted light through the bronze doors and the same light reflected on the polished marble also make things harder to parse. Aside from the play in different colors, I note the altar-like table below the window which would hold portrait busts had they opted for that route of commemoration.

The Chung mausoleum therefore offers us an example of a funerary portrait that was specifically made for the mausoleum, but at the same time is directly modeled after a photograph made for some unrelated purpose. Inasmuch as it is the centerpiece of the entire mausoleum, it is clearly a very costly portrait; but the original photograph(s) was/were of negligible cost, as opposed to the carved portrait busts I usually show you.

As with all of these portraits, there seems to have been a concern among the decedents or their posthumous commemorators to give them some form of life in the tomb with a portrait. But did the decedents commemorate themselves in a conspicuously consumptive way before death? For the Chungs, the answer appears to be no. The photographic models for this window could have been displayed (if they were) in a simple silver frame. Nevertheless they have left behind pleasant portraits which were a pleasure to discover.

Some lesser treasures of Columbia Gardens Cemetery

A quick visit this morning to check something turned into a lengthy sojourn at Columbia Gardens, which is, luckily, just down the street from my house.

Columbia Gardens, like Oakwood Cemetery in Falls Church, is a fine cemetery full of ambitious monuments, though both fall short of the great rural cemeteries. Both have some older burials, but for the most part, one sees efforts from well into the twentieth-century. Very many in Columbia Gardens are quite recent.

As a result, both reflect the ethnic diversity of Northern Virginia, and that can lead to interesting, and sometimes charming surprises.

Figure 1. James E. Alatis monument. c. 2015. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

Figure 1: Que serà serà! James Alatis faced his mortality with aplomb.

Figure 2. Japanese monument. Columbia Gardens, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

This monument (figure 2), which in my complete ignorance I am surmising to be Japanese (or to have Japanese written on it), I found charming in its ramantic overgrown site.

Figure 3. Metzger monument. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

I thought at first that the Metzgers has gifted us with a late rare portrait in bas relief on a recent (c. 1996) monument (figure 3). But upon second and third look, I’m betting that this female face is meant to be that of the Virgin Mary. The veil and the olde tyme garb are what persuaded me. I admit I don’t like this style of portraiture which is very datable as late-twentieth or early twenty-first American and has a sort of rose-tinted quality about it. It’s sort of naive, and so anecdotal that any eternal verities it tries to convey are sorely compromised.

Figure 4. Galaviz-Campelle monument. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

Not infrequently you find a Roman tombstone consciously addressing the random wayfarer who might pass it by. This is one of the few American monuments I’ve seen to consciously do the same thing (figure 4). The inscription in black at the bottom reads:

Thank you for stopping by. Our life’s simple
philosophy is, “The Joy is in the Journey.”
To share more with you about our life’s journey,
please visit http://www.galaviz

Bad news: the URL goes nowhere, whether galavizfamily, galaviz family, or galaviz_family is used. So the web site, if it ever existed, is also defunct.

Figure 5. Themis Donis monument. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

Figure 5: Surely not written by the decedent, right? If it were it would be sententious and self-complimentary and not attractive at all.

Figure 6. Allan Ray “Babe” Sowers monument. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

Figure 6: I admit to you I can’t tell whether this man was a jockey or a claim is being made that he was a sport in life, playing the ponies.

Figure 7. Ambury monument. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

Stumped by this one too (figure 7). The severed arms with stigmata are in the wrong direction for the cross, if the T is meant to be a cross. Or maybe the symbolism is just foreign to me.

Figure 8. Scinta monument. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

Don’t hate me for bursting into laughter when I got close enough to read the caption under the (wait for it) angel statue (figure 8). I rigorously try to see the best in every monument. But this was so unexpected.

Figure 9. Towsey monument. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

Is the Towsey monument (figure 9) not glorious? Are you not entertained?

Figure 10. Morgan monument. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

I find this monument (figure 10), which is at once a headstone and a bench, very charming because of the ‘before and after’ photos of Ruth. I don’t think I’ve seen this before.

Figure 11. Martin-Cole monument. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

I presume the angel on the plaque (figure 11) is lighting and leading the way. However, it is the wondrous angel face above that wins my admiration.

Figure 12. Lê monument. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

I believe this (figure 12) is Vietnamese, and it is just wonderful. Not visible is a niche in the lamp for a tea light.

Figure 13. Kile monument. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

Any man who quotes from Little Big Man on his monument (figure 13) is OK in my book. And, we see where Star Trek writers got Mr. Worf’s signature line. Mt. Weather, about 40 miles west of D.C., is the place where the government relocates in case of disaster.

The last supper is not infrequently seen in modern cemeteries. Columbia Gardens offers us the chance to see two (figures 14, 15) and compare them. Each has its strengths, though the look on Jesus’ face, exasperated and cross-eyed, in the Maturi monument (figure 14) did raise a smile. The “Byrd” of the Byrd monument (figure 15) was the U.S. Senator.

Figure 16. Marca monument. Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

I will leave you with this one (figure 16), which I liked because it is romantically suggestive with the autumn leaves, and because I can’t wait for this endless summer to let up and turn into autumn already.


People who frequent older U.S. cemeteries quickly become accustomed to seeing the “rustic” look in funerary markers: markers, headstones, and monuments designed in the conceit that they are logs. That is the formal trade name for this stuff, as you can see from the following advertisement (figure 1) and the several in the following gallery (figures 2-7), all taken from the trade journal The Monumental News, 1896. Depending upon your platform, clicking on the gallery images may enlarge them.

Figure 1. John A. Rowe advertisement, The Monumental News, 1896, p. 214. Public domain. Digitized by Google.

I add figure 7 to show a the “rock face” or “rough stone” style, which is a mannered way of cutting the stone to give it a rusticated look, as though we are looking at exposed rock in nature. It’s quite common to see highly polished work and rusticated work side-by-side in the same monument, the idea being, I suppose, that the polished work is emerging from the rough hewn “natural” stone. You see both techniques together in figure 6, for example.

I will not dwell further on the latter here, except to give you as a treat my absolute favorite rustic monument, that of Commander Levi Bertolette in Arlington National Cemetery. Here, wonderfully, the cutter has played with the surfaces in order to depict an American flag draped over a rusticated stone (figure 8).

Figure 8. Levi Calvin Bertolette monument. Arlington National Cemetery. Photo: author.

No, I lied, I will give you one more, the Steward monument in Laurel Hill in Philadelphia. I do it not simply out of self-indulgence but to illustrate an intermediate form between the rusticated rock and the fully rustic technique.

Figure 9. Robert Ralston Steward monument, 1858. Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA. Photo: author.

Note that the rock is central, but the story is being told by the other features. Ivy has connotations of life, but it also breaks stone down; the urn which notionally sat atop the stone is broken, in symbolism of the broken chain of life implied by the grave, and decay, and mortality in general. The name plaque appears to be propped up on the stone in a way that indicates the sculptor wasn’t too concerned to depict a literal means of having it stay in place. The fine cutting of the leaves of the vine is a hallmark of this aesthetic, at least in better realized examples.

Figure 10. John W. McDonald monument. Mt. Hebron Cemetery, Winchester, VA. Photo: author.

Figure 10 offers a mediocre, even perfunctory example which nevertheless exhibits the main features of the breed. The hewn logs below support the likewise hewn log above. For the purposes of cost efficiency, the logs have been streamlined with square-ish cross sections, rudimentary linear expressions of the grain and rays in the cut faces, and very simplified bark.

The ivy we saw in the Steward monument (figure 9) is present, as is the plaque somehow affixed to the standing log. Below, the ivy creeps up the stacked logs, and there is both a fern and a lily, together with the lily’s very large leaf. The medallion atop is for the Woodmen of the World, an Omaha-based insurance company of which McDonald was evidently a member. Woodmen gave their salesmen-members tombstones like this one from about the time of the founding in 1890 through about 1930, when the program was abandoned for reasons of cost.

The Ernest N. Gray monument in Oak Hill is another transitional fossil, so to speak, with a rusticated stone sporting only the surname etched out in log font—or I should say, ‘twig font.’

Figure 11. Ernest N. Gray monument. Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

Well, it’s time to show you a monumental example of the rustic style, nay, the example that drives all competitors from the field. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you (drum roll) the T. S. Lloyd plot in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA (figure 12).

Figure 12. T. S. Lloyd plot, a.k.a. Log-a-palooza. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo author.

The only flaw in this masterpiece is the (living) invader tree that blocks nearly half of the central monumental trunk from view. Drink it in! Where does one start? From the edge inward, perhaps. Clicking on the gallery images below may enlarge the images.

You know how some people get over-invested in something? Lloyd was really, really invested in the log thing. It is not uncommon to see a border around a plot, but it’s usually sort of like a street curb—smooth. Here Lloyd has purchased a custom-made rustic curb, and it is really well made. The surname is given on the threshold (figure 13) in a simpler log (not twig) font, and the log borders are joined somewhat “Lincoln-log-like” with a little trestle under the joint. The posts that rise up in front are very carefully worked, comparably to the headstones—see the knots and ferns.

There are six other family members besides Lloyd and the missus commemorated in this plot. The individual headlogs are not much different among themselves, featuring a common design (figures 17, 18, click to enlarge).

Minnie’s (figure 17) and Blanch’s (figure 18) headlogs are both manifestly sculpted to order, and, at twenty-three year’s separation, carved by different hands. This is true for the various differently dated headlogs. Here we have, I think, morning glories creeping up over the ivy; the logs have roughly squared bottoms. The name plaques hang by rope from a front-central knot, and the surname is given differnt treatment: Blanche, the later, in log-font; Minnie, the earlier, in twig font. The execution on both is quite fine compared, for example, with the McDonald monument (figure 10). The undercut leaves and flowers are impressive, but wait for better to come.

Figure 19. T. S. and Frances Lloyd monument. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

Kind of a ‘holy cow’ moment to see this, isn’t it? There are two carefully executed logs that bracket a rusticated stone center. The trunks have branches that are interwoven (in an embrace, so to speak) and which hold up a scroll. That scroll is broken, or two separate scrolls at the top, but at the bottom it is a single scroll. These could all be taken as symbols of the marriage. The tree trunks here as elsewhere symbolize death, decay, and the breaking off of life. Still, new life blooms: white calla lilies (to judge by the shape of the flower), reeds by their stems, and ivy clinging and climbing. From death comes new life.

Figure 19a. Watson monument. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

Compare the Lloyd monument with that of the Watsons in West Laurel Hill (figure 19a), another ambitious rustic monument. There is much that is praiseworthy in the Watsons’ headlog (not least that the break has been treated so as to suggest that the trees were deliberately felled), but nothing like the interwoven branches and the play with the scroll(s). And the Watsons have done nothing comparable to the Lloyds in completism; though the daughter Rene is nearby, also on a log.

Figure 20. T. S. and Frances Lloyd monument. Detail: rear.. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

Looking back to (and at the back of) the Lloyds’ double monument, one can see the rusticated stone more clearly, and the embrace of the tree limbs is clearer, too. The fine sculpting of the knots and bark can be easily made out, not least in the split bark where the upper part of the notional tree has been lopped off. The ivy tendril coming around the left trunk in figure 20 is wonderful, too.

Figure 21. T. S. and Frances Lloyd monument. Detail: split and peeling bark at cut. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

And now, the piece to resist: the central focus of the plot, the central broken tree stump (figures 22, 23, 24).

Figure 22. T. S. and Frances Lloyd monument. Detail: broken tree roots. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

Figure 22: the fat, old vine can be seen emerging from the dead roots of the stump; both are anchored in stone. Charming wood ear mushrooms grow out of the trunk. A pot of lillies is set on the stone upon which the trunk is notionally anchored. The bark is quite realistic.

Figure 23. T. S. and Frances Lloyd monument. Detail: vine on broken tree. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

Figure 23: the vine curves up and around the tree above the calla lily flower. The vine tendrils and leaves are cut with exquisite delicacy. I touched them: they feel like concrete or stone. The vine has been broken by visitors or natural causes here and there.

Figure 24. T. S. and Frances Lloyd monument. Detail: broken tree at the break. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

Figure 24: and the crowning glory of the whole plot is the vine near the top of the stump bursting forth with fruit, and the exquisitely realistic way the wood of the tree has broken off (and not just been sawn) and the bark ripped off and peeling back.

Finally, there is the wondrous name scroll in giant, fully detailed log font so large that the log letters still have twigs coming off of them (figure 25).

Figure 25. T. S. and Frances Lloyd monument. Detail: central name scroll. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

And so, Log-a-palooza. Eternal thanks to T. S. Lloyd for paying for the doubtless fantastically expensive furnishings of this plot. I’ve not seen all examples of the rustic funerary monument, but I’m pretty sure that Lloyd gets “world champion” for completeness, sparing no expense on detail, obsessive fixity of purpose, and sheer size.

Most rustic logs are carved from stone. Parts of this monument may be, but I do think that in fact much of it is cast cement which has been assembled. No carver is so good as to undercut all of those grape vine leaves, stalks, tendrils and grape clusters. Some of it might even be less durable material coated with a hard bonding cement-like finish.

I’ve not read anything about the techniques for creating the rustic look on these detailed monuments in the trade journals yet, but if I do I’ll come back here and update this post with the answer.


Here, ladies and gentlemen, is a mausoleum, in Glenwood Cemetery in Washington, D.C., designed by a spooney architect (figure 1).

Figure 1. Spooney mausoleum. Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

Now before I go an inch further, let me concede that if you ignore the details and slip the image a little out of focus, you have a fairly banal basic plan. The mausoleum is not free standing but has a mound heaped over a central concrete vault; a false façade faces the world, and to each side a wing curves out, notionally enclosing the façade within an exhedra and serving as a sort of terrace wall for the mound. Very normal: figure 2 offers a photograph and drawings of a similar monument in Paxtang Cemetery in Paxtang, PA..

Figure 2. Receiving vault plan and photograph. Paxtang Cemetery, Paxtang, PA. The Monumental News 1896, p. 31. Public domain. Digitized by Google.

I will also concede that there are signs that this mausoleum was designed to fit within the sphere of Egyptian Revival architecture. The battered (inclined) walls of the sides of the façade are an obvious start as are the two obelisks standing sentry beside the door. The cavettos marking the roofline and the line of the arc over the door are also from this tradition, as are the modified astragals which are made to look like running bundles bound with cord. You can see both worked into the capital atop the end of the right-hand wing (figure 3):

Figure 3. Spooney mausoleum. Detail: capital exhibiting cavetto and modified astragal.

I trust you notice the masterful misalignment of the capital over the block supporting it. You can see something of what the architect intended in the fine work above the door of the Tinius Olsen mausoleum in Bala Cynwyd (figure 4).

Figure 4. Tinius Olsen mausoleum. Detail: cavetto and astragal above door. Photo: author.

The Tinius Olsen cavetto is carved with stylized lotus flowers, ubiquitous in Egyptian revival architecture. I dare say that the curved verticals that run through the spooney mausoleum’s cavettos are echoing this kind of design in a very stylized, etiolated way. That they are grouped into bunches makes me think that Spooney was mentally envisioning triglyphs from Greek Doric design (figure 5).

Figure 5. Brademas mausoleum. Detail: Doric frieze. Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

OK, so Spooney was eclectic. The mausoleum was also designed to be built cheaply, concrete vaulting with a mound being a fraction of the cost of cut blocks throughout. But I ask you to find for me another mausoleum in the Egyptian revival style that exhibits those weird curves—let’s just call them friezes—over the door and at the roof line. Let’s take a closer look, shall we (figure 6)?

Figure 6. Spooney mausoleum. Detail: cavetto friezes. Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

Thinking about the shape of the façade, and noting the very obvious ashlar construction, I suspect that it was meant to be viewed as a truncated obelisk, echoing (or echoed by) the sentry obelisks at the door. But those curving friezes are unique in my experience of the Egyptian revival. You can see how the arches were constructed: the one over the door is a true arch, whereas the one at the roofline is constructed of two blocks at the ends which are extensions of the rectilinear ashlar blocks below them, and the central three blocks are arched in shape but must extend back in a rectilinear shape that allows them to sit stably on the course below. Close observation will show you how the forces involved are slowly pushing the façade apart, most visibly in the daringly cantilevered edge blocks—you can see blue sky in the joint on the right. But maybe there is a certain method to Spooney’s madness.

Figure 7. Foerderer mausoleum. Detail: bronze door window grate. Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA. Photo: author.

You see the shape of the stylized lotus flowers in the grate of the door to the Foerderer mausoleum in Laurel Hill (figure 7)? And the lines that in a very minimal way indicate petals? This, I think, is the design source for the curve at the roofline of Spooney’s mausoleum. That is to say, not Foerderer’s mausoleum itself, which I’d bet is at a minimum some thirty years younger, but the basic pattern which the bronzeworks has cast into the Foerderer grating. And for that matter, have a look at a capital from the Foerderer mausoleum in perspective from ground level (figure 8).

Figure 8. Foerderer mausoleum. Detail: column capital. Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA. Photo: author.

This is a busy capital, with lotus flowers and palmettes, and maybe stylized acanthus leaves, and finally some mushroom-y things. But the characteristic shape (if not details) of this Egyptian revival capital, and the way the verticals on it diverge when seen in perspective from the ground, also seem like a possible model for Spooney’s work. It is defs cray-cray.

The interior (figure 9) is dreadful and looks like a wandering horde of Visigoths went through. The cheap iron fittings and bare concrete reveal the inadequate budget.

Figure 9. Spooney mausoleum interior. Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

The lack of any identifying features on the exterior practically guarantees that this is, or was, the receiving vault for temporary storage of bodies in anticipation of burial. A little research reveals this surmise to be true. Here, for example, is the description (with which I do not fully agree) in Glenwood’s application for the National Historic Register (figure 10). A photograph of this structure, omitted here, accompanies the description.

Figure 10. Glenwood Cemetery application for Historic Landmark designation. Source here.

This of course explains the cheap construction: the cemetery paid for it, and they did not lay out big bucks for a temporary shelter for bodies. Of course, this was expensive in absolute terms; just not designed, fitted out, and finished like the standard plutocrat’s mausoleum. Lest I seem uncharitable, I should freely admit that those unheard-of curved friezes are a noble attempt to achieve originality in the design.