It’s Halloween week so I thought it only fitting to explore one of Denver’s great architectural treasures: Fairmount Cemetery. Founded in 1890, Fairmount Cemetery was the third major cemetery to be developed in Denver.
The first, Mount Prospect Cemetery, was founded in 1859 by William Larimer, Jr. and was intended to be a beautiful burial ground to the east of Denver City. Unfortunately it was located in an arid place far from water and its first inhabitant was Jack O’Neil, a man killed in a gunfight. The non-denominational cemetery soon earned an unsavory reputation and was seen as a blight on the city. In 1873, its ownership was transferred to the city and it became known as City Cemetery*. (At that time, the two religious sections of Mount Prospect Cemetery were transferred to religious institutions: Mount Calvary Cemetery was transferred to the Catholic Church and the Jewish Burial and Prayer Ground was transferred to a Jewish congregation.)
In 1876, a group of prominent Denver businessmen formed Riverside Cemetery. Located on the banks of the South Platte River just northeast of the city, Riverside Cemetery was planned as a ‘rural cemetery’ in a garden-like setting, similar to Mt. Auburn Cemetery outside of Boston. It took several years for the owners to develop Riverside Cemetery into a lush oasis with tree-lined allées and beautiful plantings. During that time, development began encroaching on Riverside, with railroad tracks and factories lining its perimeter. So in 1890, a second group of prominent business men formed Fairmount Cemetery and rapidly transformed it into a beautifully laid out and landscaped cemetery to rival society cemeteries like Green-Wood in Brooklyn and Laurel Hill in Philadelphia. Riverside and Fairmount cemeteries merged in 1900.
* In 1893, City Cemetery was closed and the remains disinterred to Riverside Cemetery. The land later became Cheesman Park, a lush urban oasis in the heart of Denver. The Jewish Burial and Prayer Ground, closed in 1923, became part of Congress Park, and Mount Calvary Cemetery, closed in 1908, later became the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Our first look at Fairmount will be the impressive mausoleums. (On Wednesday we will look at unique monuments and carvings.) Most of the mausoleums at Fairmount are centered around the Ivy Chapel near the northwest corner of the cemetery, not too far from the original street car turn around.
William J. Barker Mausoleum
William Barker was an early pioneer of Denver and became the city’s mayor from 1874 to 1876. He died in 1911 and is interred in this mausoleum. The mausoleum is light gray granite with classical ornament: paired Corinthian columns set on solid plinths, a heavy cornice with foliate modillions, and his name and death year carved in relief in Roman numerals above the door.
John Dewitt Smails was born in 1844 in Michigan and died in 1912 in Denver. He was the agent of the Giant Powder Company of California, which supplied explosives to the railroads and mining ventures. His wife, Eva Lowe Smails, was also a Michigan native, born in 1859. She died during a trip to California in 1916, just one year after the completion of the Smails Mausoleum.
The Smails mausoleum was built using light gray Barre granite, quarried in Vermont (source: “Barre’s ‘Memorial Masterpieces.'”, The Monumental News, Vol. 28, No. 6, June 1916, p. 378). According to Eva Smails’ obituary in the Denver Post, cited here,
“The Smails mausoleum stands today near the entrance to Fairmount cemetery, a giant marble [sic] tomb built at a cost of more than $50,000. It is of pure Vermont granite throughout. Eighteen granite columns rise nearly the height of the mausoleum and near the right and left walls of the spacious interior, the floor of which is also polished Barre granite, rest two sarcophagi modeled after the fashion of the famous tomb of the Emperor Napoleon in Paris.”
The Smails mausoleum is unique for 1910s architecture. Its elephantine columns and corner piers give the sense of solidity, but all of the features are overgrown. The denticulated cornice has little ornament other than massive curved dentils, and the carved frieze below is out of scale compared to the columns and piers, which in turn are out of scale with the steps and the doorway. The column capitals also extend beyond the frieze, as though the roof was meant to be larger than it is. These ledges atop the capitals allow water and snow to get under the frieze, which can allow moisture into the interior of the mausoleum. It’s a strange design, but oddly fascinating.
M. Barth Mausoleum
The M. Barth Mausoleum has an interesting history. Moritz Barth commissioned this mausoleum in Fairmount Cemetery for his two daughters, Paulina and Georgia Mabel Barth. Paulina died in 1885 when she was two years old, and Georgia Mabel died in 1886 when she was six years old; both succumbed to Scarlet Fever. They were interred in City Cemetery (currently Cheesman Park), and their remains were moved to Fairmount Cemetery in 1893. In 1915, Moritz Barth purchased a larger plot in Fairmount Cemetery and built the current mausoleum. Paulina and Georgia Mabel were moved to the new mausoleum upon its completion in 1916.
Moritz Barth, born in 1834, was a German shoemaker who moved to the United States in the 1850s. He and his brother, William, settled in Denver in 1865 and began a lucrative bootmaking and wholesale business. He eventually owned and developed real estate in Denver, and owned the Elk Hotel (later renamed the Barth Hotel by his son). Moritz died in 1918 in Denver. He is interred at the Barth Mausoleum with his wife, Georgia Anna Yates Barth, who died in 1928.
Their mausoleum is light gray granite designed in the Egyptian Revival style. It is an interesting choice of architectural style, as Egyptian Revival was popular in the 1830s and 40s, and again after the Tutankhamen excavations in the 1920s. Egyptian Revival was, however, a popular funerary style in the early 20th century. According to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission:
“The style attempted to recreate the appearance of Egyptian temples, especially with the use of massive columns that resemble sheaves of sticks tied at the top and bottom. Details refer to ancient Egyptian symbols—the phoenix, the sphinx, and the vulture and sun disk. This style was most often applied to public buildings, banks, prisons, courthouses, offices, and cemetery structures. This style was often chosen for buildings representing eternity and the afterlife.”
You can see several of these motifs in the photo above.
Odd Edwards Mausoleum
I was fascinated by this mausoleum because of its inhabitant’s name. Odd Edwards was Alvin “Odd” Edwards, who was born in 1827 and died in 1902. He is interred there with his wife, Belle B. Edwards, who was born in 1832 and died in 1906. The mausoleum is gray granite with rusticated walls and a heavy pedimental roof. The step at the entrance says “Mizpah”, which relates to the emotional bond between people who are separated by distance or death.
R. Soper Mausoleum
The Soper Mausoleum commemorates Roger Soper. The sandstone mausoleum is reported to be the first mausoleum built in Fairmount Cemetery, and was commissioned by Soper’s wife Susan.
The mausoleum has rusticated sandstone walls with elegant Corinthian columns and an intricately carved, arched frieze framing the doorway. The roof is made of sandstone steps that meet at the center, which supports a graceful sandstone sculpture, Hope, gazing to the heavens and resting her hand atop the anchor of faith. (Source: Annette Stott, Pioneer Cemeteries: Sculpture Gardens of the Old West. [Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2008] p. 167, 182.)
John Good was born in 1834 in Germany and died in 1918 in Denver. An early immigrant to Colorado, Good was the original owner of the Rocky Mountain Brewery, established in 1859. In 1900, after having sold the Rocky Mountain Brewery to the Zang brothers (who changed the brewery’s name to Zang’s Brewery), Good purchased Colorado’s second oldest brewery, Sigi’s Brewery. Good renamed it Tivoli Brewery, and built Tivoli into one of the largest breweries west of the Mississippi. The brewery building in Auraria still stands and is part of the CU Denver Auraria campus. The Good mausoleum is an elegant, round temple surrounded by light gray granite columns and a balustrade shielding the domed roof.
Fairmount Cemetery is not without its controversial residents. Richard Pinhorn was a restauranteur in Denver and was most famous for the Manhattan Restaurant, located on Larimer Street. The Manhattan Restaurant was a fixture on Larimer Street for many years, and it vertical neon sign remained on the building in the 1950s, as shown in this photo from the Denver Public Library. When Pinhorn died in 1922, his funeral was showered with white carnations dropped from an airplane by white-robed KKK members.
The Pinhorn Mausoleum was designed by Richard A. Swanson and was made of Victoria white granite, quarried in New Hampshire. (Source: “Notable Mausoleums of the Year”, The Monumental News, Vol. 34, No. 2, February 1922, p. 95) It has an elegant Art Deco design with a stylized Gothic arch entrance and triangular friezes depicting laurel wreaths and palm fronds, both of which are carved in bas relief.
May Madeline Bonfils Stanton was the heiress to the Bonfils publishing fortune. For many years, the Bonfils family owned the Denver Post, which was run by her father and then her sister, Helen. May, the eldest Bonfils daughter, was born in 1883 and died in 1962 at her estate, Belmar, in Lakewood. She was a philanthropist and following her death, her husband Charles Stanton founded the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation. She is most famous for amassing a huge collection of valuable jewels. Her home, Belmar, was a replica of Marie Antoinette’s Petite Trianon at Versailles. She ordered it demolished after her death, though remnants of the estate remain in the Belmar neighborhood. Photographs of the house can be found here.
Belmar was reported to be made of pure white Carrara marble imported from Italy, so it is not surprising that May Bonfils Stanton’s mausoleum would also be made of white marble. This mausoleum recalls medieval French chapels in its carving and design.
Temple Hoyne Buell Mausoleum
As I have discussed before, Temple Buell [pdf] was one of Denver’s most famous architects. He practiced from the 1920s through the 1960s and was most famous for the Paramount Theater. He also designed the original Cherry Creek Shopping Center, the first pedestrian shopping mall in the country, built in 1949. He was a real estate developer, architect and philathropist. And he designed his own mausoleum, which was built using a interesting dark and golden granite. Buell died in 1990. He shares his mausoleum with his daughter, Beverly Milne Buell More, who died in 1999.
The Wahlgreen mausoleum is really unique. It was built using Georgia pink marble, which is uncommon to see both in cemeteries and in Colorado. Although most of the people interred in this mausoleum died in 1911, it was probably built in the 1920s or 30s, as its decorative frieze and entrance pilasters are influenced by Art Deco.
Those interred in the mausoleum include:
- John A. Wahlgreen (b. 1843, d. 1911)
- Gustav Albert Wahlgreen (b. 1864, d. 1942), John A. Wahlgreen’s son
- Beulah H. Wahlgreen (b. 1871, d. 1933), Gustav Albert’s wife
- Gustav and Beuhlah’s two children Hudson Francis Wahlgreen (b. 1897, d. 1911) and Paul Albert Wahlgreen (b. 1891, d. 1904).
E.E. Sommers Mausoleum
Finally, the E.E. Sommers mausoleum. Sommers was the state Highway Commissioner in the 1910s, and owned the Sommers Oil Company, based in Denver. He was involved with transportation and highways for most of his career, and was president of the Denver Motor Club with William J. Barker during the 1920s. This mausoleum caught my eye for one specific reason: its use of granite. Check out the side wall at the left side of the photo. It is made of one giant slab of rusticated granite, with another large piece as the base. A third large, though more finely carved piece, was used at the corner. The excavation marks (I wouldn’t call them ‘tooling marks’ as they are so rough) on the two largest pieces of stone are amazing!