Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

RIVERSIDE ABBEY

Morning Star, July 28, 2013, pg. 6

A prominent structure in Albion is 100 years old this year. It was on Thursday, August 21, 1913 that construction began on the Riverside Abbey Mausoleum in Riverside Cemetery. The mausoleum was erected on land in Riverside Cemetery purchased from the City for the price of $800 along the Kalamazoo River.

The contractor for the project was F. J. Herman of Toledo, Ohio, and the builder was W. H. Hamilton of Battle Creek. Hamilton was a promoter of the mausoleum concept, and had built Oak Hill Abbey in Battle Creek in 1912. He also erected other mausoleums on the west coast. One of the "selling" points was "that it means dry entombment and protection in the stone instead of wet burial and destruction under the stone," according to news accounts at the time.

Making the mausoleum possible was the Riverside Mausoleum Association. Its first officers were: Professor Frederick Lutz, president; C. F. Godfrey, treasurer; and William H. Barney, secretary. An "open house" was held on Thursday and Friday October 8 and 9, 1914. A news release at the time stated, "It marks an advanced step in the disposition of our dead and appeals to both our sentiment and common sense. The disagreeable features attending the earth burial are entirely done away with. In every community where these mausoleums have been erected, the nearby farmers have been as fully interested as the people in the city. This is one of the things that must be seen to be appreciated. For the benefit and convenience of those living in the vicinity of Albion, the management has arranged to open it for inspection. These are the dates for the corn and apple show, and a visit can be made to the Abbey without extra effort as it is located in the north side of the cemetery." What a novel idea: attend the Corn and Apple Festival at the adjacent Albion Fairgrounds, and then hop the fence and view the inside of the mausoleum—all in one trip!

There are 144 crypts in the mausoleum, and approximately 120 persons are entombed there, leaving room for more should you be interested. A few have been removed by descendants fearing the collapse of the structure in the future and reinterred in Riverside Cemetery itself. The last interment was in December, 1986 with the remains of Blair (Cox) Vaughn, wife of Albion clothier Lige H. Vaughn, and the cremains of their daughter Betty (Vaughn) Thronson (who died in 1954) in the casket.

The Mausoleum used to be cleaned and swept and opened to the public on Memorial Day each year, but that practice has been discontinued. Unfortunately, all of the members of the Mausoleum Association are now deceased and entombed within, leaving no one to financially take care of the structure or handle future interments. The City of Albion has had to take on the burden of upkeep for the structure. A major repair project occurred in 1999 by the City of Albion, when a new tile roof was installed by Rahm Industrial Services.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph showing new tiles being installed on the roof of the Abbey in February, 1999. This action helped protect the structure from further water damage. How many of our readers have ever entered that structure? In October 1999, this writer was able to conduct part of my annual Riverside Cemetery Tour at the Mausoleum, and we were able to enter it with a big crowd and speak about the structure. We featured several persons interred within. The event was filmed by Larry Brooks of Hometown TV and played back on our local cable channel.


New tiles being installed on the roof of the Abbey Mausoleum in February, 1999

Next: Albion 100 Years Ago - AUGUST 1913


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