Cemetery Sexton: Billy Mason
Location: North Franklin Street
Phone: (478) 277-5098
Friday, December 18, 2015
THE PALACE OF THE DEAD
THE NORTHVIEW MAUSOLEUM
"The Palace of the Dead"
It was just a little more than a century ago when the plans were announced to build a community mausoleum at the northeastern end of Northview Cemetery in Dublin. Two months later, the Atlanta Constitution announced the construction of a community mausoleum in Northview Cemetery, later renamed Crestlawn Cemetery, in Atlanta. The article proclaimed that the new sepulcher would be the first of its kind in the South. A third mausoleum was completed in Augusta's Westover Cemetery in the late summer of 1915. In the end, the mausoleum in Dublin's Northview Cemetery is one of the oldest community mausoleums in the South and quite possibly the oldest outside of a major city.
The word Mausoleum comes from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, which houses the grave of King Mausolus, a 4th Century B.C. Persian ruler. The King's tomb was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Traditionally mausolea were built for wealthy and important persons. In the early centuries of American history, they became increasingly popular with wealthy persons wanting to show the enduring evidence of their wealth. The largest mausoleum in the United States, The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, California, for example, contains 6,000 spaces -- 30 times the amount available in the Northview Mausoleum.
The first news of a proposed mausoleum in Dublin was published in August 1913. The Georgia Mausoleum Corporation, headquartered in Atlanta, was allied with a national corporation which was building community mausoleums across the country. It is said that the first community mausoleum in the United States was erected in Cleveland, Ohio's Highland Park.
On January 17, 1914, Frank G. Corker, President of the First National Bank and Vice-President of the Georgia Mausoleum Company, made the announcement that the company was beginning construction on a fifty-thousand dollar, marble and stone mausoleum with a capacity of three hundred crypts.
The company was planning a novel, yet somewhat gruesome, method of preserved the remains of the dead. Instead of an open grave, the company planned to build a concrete building, complete with a chapel, with spaces for crypts.
The company intended to place the corpses in the crypts, which contained a specially formulated and patented embalming fluid. Purchasers were assured that the building would be kept sanitary at all times and the bodies of the dead would never become mummified. That plan never materialized.
It is nearly impossible to determine the exact date of the beginning of the construction of the mausoleum, but in April 1915, the Dublin Courier Herald announced that the work of the Georgia Mausoleum Company, under the guidance of Frank G. Corker, President of the First National Bank of Dublin and local agent, Alex Keith, had begun.
The project was downsized from its original 50,000 - dollar, 300-crypt mausoleum down to a 30,000-dollar, 200-crypt structure. Twenty additional crypts were added along the walls of the chapel to bring the total to 220. As of December 2015, there are 150 vacant crypts.
The building, comparable in size to the Carnagie Library erected a decade before, was a modern wonder of the burgeoning Emerald City. Much of the materials used on the exterior closely resemble the stone used by Corker when he built the First National Bank Building in 1913.
"Architecturally, the building is most pleasing to the eye. A careful examination will reveal the fact that the entire building is one gigantic piece of stone. It has been stated by scientists that buildings of this kind are the most beautiful examples of monolithic structure found. To get a proper perception of how the building was made, it is necessary to imagine a mold larger than the Carnegie Library, into which one continuous stream of melted stone has been poured," wrote a Dublin Courier Herald reporter.
The interior of the mortuous mansion is finished throughout in polished white Georgian marble. The floors and ceilings are inlaid and the windows were originally set in heavy bronzed copper frames with subdued colors.
A marble altar stand, which faces the front door of the 20- foot by 30-foot chapel, was once compared to an alcove of a great cathedral. The interior features northern and southern wings, each with a 12-foot by 30-foot hallway and twenty numbered sections, five crypts high.
A most amazing sight can be found along the rear (northeastern) exterior wall of the mausoleum. Over the last century, a small, constant and seemingly insignificant flow of water from the tops of the window lintels down to the bottom window sills have revealed a strange sight, rarely seen in the Middle Georgia area. A closer examination reveals thin, finger-like stalactites clinging to the top of the window, while two-inch tall, mound-like stalagmites are cemented to the bottom window sill.
Work on the building, with its two-foot thick stone walls, was completed just before Christmas in 1915 - a century ago this month. It would be about four months before the first body would be laid to rest. Ironically, it was Margaret Corker Weaver, mother of owner Frank G. Corker and who died on May 13, 1916, who was the first person to be placed in the mausoleum.
In June 1979, the Dublin City Council accepted the offer from the estate of Herschel Lovett to donate the mausoleum to the city. Lovett had acquired the building and the unsold crypt spaces from Frank Corker, or his estate, in the early 1930s. At that time, the mausoleum had fallen into a sad state of repair. To offset the estimated $10,000.00 in repairs, the Lovett family donated a quarter of that sum and loaned the remainder of the amount with no interest with the principal being paid from the sale of crypts. The gift was accepted by the city council upon a strong recommendation of the Laurens County Historical Society.
In recent years, the City of Dublin has made considerable repairs to the mausoleum along with increased maintenance of the cemetery. The Dublin Rotary Club led the effort to make significant improvements to the entrance and general appearance of the cemetery in the last few years. The last two entombments were Helen Bashinski Milledge in 2001 and Murray Chappell in 2004.
On a trivial note, one of the occupants of the mausoleum is W.W. Childres -- a close cousin of Andy Griffith's grandfather, John Griffith of Mt. Airy, North Carolina.
Reliable estimates count the number of community mausoleum in the country at roughly 200 with 20 of those being in the Deep South.
While the Mausoleum at Northview, the Palace of the Dead, may be spooky, creepy and downright terrifying, remember it is an architectural wonder of our community, whose occupants once were the leaders of Dublin and Laurens County.
Article by Scott Thompson