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  • Writer's pictureNancy Rogers

Mausoleums a Fancy Way to Go

Updated: Nov 24, 2022

I love mausoleums. Most of you will probably think I'm crazy for saying that, but I really am fascinated by them. What is a mausoleum? It' a stand alone structure designed to house the dead above ground. But it's not just any structure, it's one built to last. The people of antiquity built their monuments and temples with the intention of them lasting for centuries, and think about how many of them have. That's probably why most mausoleums--even new ones--employ Greek or Roman architecture. There are no rules, however, and there are mausoleums built to resemble everything from log cabins to pyramids, but the most famous and certainly the most beautiful would have to be the Taj Mahal in India. The ones featured on this page are in Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte.

The one of the right is my favorite. It belongs to the Latta family of Charlotte, descendants of James Latta who once owned Latta Plantation near Charlotte. The Latta family was one of Charlotte's most prominent families and one of the city's most philanthropic. The Latta mausoleum is Greek in style, you can tell that by the simple freeze above the portico and the columns that I believe to be doric. Roman columns would be much more decorative. The Greeks stuck to the classics.

Mausoleums are extremely expensive to build because they are generally made entirely out of stone. Even the roof shingles are fashioned of stone, so it makes sense that families use them for generations. Say the mausoleum is designed to hold eight bodies, but as the bodies decay and eventually turn to dust, the remains are pushed to the back of the crypt and a new body is interred next to them. I like the idea of being laid to rest next to family.

Most family mausoleums have opaque windows and solid metal doors with heavy locks. I've never seen inside a family mausoleum until I ran across the one in the photograph above--the one on the left. I took this photograph through the window in the door to the mausoleum. Look how beautiful it is inside. It looks like it was designed to hold four bodies on one side and four on the other, but who knows how many people are actually buried there.

If you visit an historic cemetery, be sure to study the mausoleums. There are more than you might think, and they are all fascinating. Most of them have a family name above the door, but some are plain. And if you are really interested in family mausoleums, you have to visit Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston. The cemetery was built during a time of great wealth, when families competed against each other even when it came to burying their dead. today the cemetery is tired and rundown, but it is something you should consider visiting. Just don't go in the summertime. A portion of it abuts a swamp and the mosquitoes there, are so thick they can darken the sky. Go after a good hard frost, but wear bug spray just in case.

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