The Hillsdale Mausoleum 

To some people the thought of being buried in the ground was repugnant. A mausoleum similar to an above-ground cemetery was an ideal solution. 

The dedication of the Hillsdale Mausoleum, located across from the entrance to Oak Grove Cemetery, occurred on December 12, 1911. Outside, the grounds were extensively landscaped; inside, two kinds of marble were used for trimmings and furnishings, while the floor was of tiled mosaic. With a rotunda in the middle hung with large baskets of ferns, mosses and hanging ivy, loved ones could visit the departed in a place of beauty and peace. Built largely of concrete, it would need little upkeep. The founders said that "members would sleep the long sleep in quiet, free of desecration." 

At the dedication of the Hillsdale Mausoleum, 132 of the 320 crypts had already been claimed. An unusual provision in the mausoleum by-laws deeded crypts to the buyers, in essence giving them ownership of the part of the mausoleum in which their bodies rested.  Unfortunately, when the founders themselves took up residence in the Hillsdale Mausoleum the interest in maintaining the building faded. Gradually, gaping holes, cracked ceilings, shattered stain glass windows, a shifting floor and rubbish in the ante-room followed. In 1961, after the bodies remaining in the Mausoleum were moved, many to the back of Lakeview Cemetery, the building was slated for removal. For several days local Army reservists repeatedly dynamited the concrete structure with blasts that shook the ground even far from the site. 

On October 3, 1963, the Hillsdale City Attorney Harvey Moes sent a letter to the Hillsdale City Manager, Orville Meyer, that indicated, "The matter on the mausoleum is now closed as far as the city is concerned; and the Mausoleum Association, itself, will be closed as soon as the checks have cleared the bank."

In a report on the destruction of the Hillsdale Mausoleum the Hillsdale Daily News observed that it was an "investment in death that didn't pay off."


JoAnne P. Miller