Thursday, June 06, 2019

Wilhelm's Mausoleum

I found out about Wilhelm's a few years ago. Originally built in 1901, the eight story mausoleum has seven miles of corridors. And it's only open to the public once a year, on Memorial Day. Our daughter visited last year and after seeing her pictures of the mausoleum I was  even more anxious to see it for myself.  

Those massive corridors go on for what feels like forever. We spent a little over three hours just walking around and taking it all in. 

At the end of each main corridor were windows, letting in daylight and the sights of Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. You can't see it in my photo, but there's also a view of Oaks Amusement Park and we could see the rides in operation.

I never did get a real feel for how the building was laid out. If it wasn't for my husband and the boys I would have been asking for directions to find my way out. It probably didn't help that street level was the fourth floor and we went down from there. Not every elevator or stairway goes to every floor. Now and then we'd look out a window and get a glimpse of the building's exterior, which left me even more puzzled.

The fountain is on the second (I think) floor and from the eighth story you can look all the way down into it...if you're tall enough or want to lean way over the edge.

I took dozens of pictures and my son took dozens more, but I missed so many things that I'd love to share with you. I was too obsessed with the stained glass to get a single picture of the marble statues. They've got a life sized replica of Michelangelo's La Pieta and a bunch of other pieces that I'm sure I should have recognized but didn't.

There are couches and chairs scattered along the hallways, most of them that quirky mid-century stuff that I love so much. In tiny alcoves on every floor are the flower rooms, each one with a sink and counter and tools for trimming stems. I thought I should take pictures of them, if only because there are so many different types of sinks and counters in there, but by the time I had that thought I'd missed a bunch of  them so I didn't and now I'm regretting that decision.

Before we went, I read all of the online articles I could find about the place. There aren't miles of smelly shag carpet. We saw lots of carpet in different colors and patterns, but nothing I'd even remotely describe as shag. Being in a building with 90,000 burials wasn't dizzying and I never felt the need to escape for fresh air.  There were only a few moments when I felt at all unsettled. 

This room under the chapel was sad. Stickers on the urns certify that (insert name and date of death) was incinerated. Maybe it's how tiny and crowded together these niches are compared to the more elaborate ones upstairs, or the fact that they just had those generic stickers on them, or the fact that the glass doors were held shut by painted over screws.

I'd heard that the mausoleum was only open to the public on Memorial Day, but they offer free tours every Wednesday and Friday I'll definitely be going back to find out more about the building and its history because now that I've been inside I've got more questions than before.

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