Mortal Preservations

In the early part of the twentieth century, residents of the Chicago suburb Beecher decided to build a community mausoleum. They wanted an interior where descendents could sit and pay respects. The residents also hoped that one day, their descendents would rest in peace alongside them. Planners began to sell crypts to raise enough capital and soon, they broke ground with architect Cecil E Bryan.

But as time passed and the original planners made the dream of their final resting place a reality, the site suffered grave neglect. I’ll let you decide if the pun was intended. Despite the attempt at lightheartedness, there’s nothing funny in the fact that over the years, vandals shattered the stained glass windows with bullets and debased crypts.

When Illinois preservationists declared the mausoleum “a threatened historical site”, the location received a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in September, 2013. However, the damage overwhelmed the structure. In recent years, design students and local businesses launched a rennovation effort to bring the mausoleum back to its original glory.

The Beecher mausoleum is one of many in the U.S. facing demise.

The upkeep of mausoleums has long posed a problem to this country. These sites need not be historical or particulalry old to pose a problem, either. And the concern involves more than the ruin of a glorious design or funds. Bodies at rest in these structures deserve more respect than they receive. They don’t need to be bothered, but they don’t need to be left alone, either. Existing burial icons are worthy of preservation. It’s time to re-evaluate how society cares for these structures so that as we pass on from this earth, preservation of these structures passes into the future.