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Monday, April 20, 2015

Community Mausoleums : The Architecture of Cecil E. Bryan

Have you ever noticed the mausoleums that have been erected in older cemeteries?  Their styles are difference, yet similar.  Monumental buildings that store and keep the remains of those who have passed appeared in the late 1800s in some of the most visited cemeteries in our nation.
Cecil E. Bryan,
A prominent mausoleum designer, Cecil E. Bryan became very well known for his designs of mausoleums suitable to just about any cemetery in the country.  He was born in 1878, and worked for architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and later for Ralph Modjeske, an architect that used reinforced concrete in many of his designs. He began designing and building mausoleums in 1912, using what he had learned from these great men, and used reinforced concrete with other new materials.
Frank Crane compiled a brochure of Cecil E. Bryan's mausoleum designs in 1917.  He aspired to build better, more perfect mausoleums to honor those who have passed, and yet give the visitors of these solemn places a spiritual experience. 

Community Mausoleums, by Frank Crane, brochure of the work of Cecil E. Bryan, 1917

Mr. Bryan was well known for his respectful, stately designs of these buildings.  His buildings can be found across the nation, in some of the most beautiful cemeteries ever seen.  And, he built them to last long after the descendants of those entombed have passed.  Keeping to the goals of providing a dry, well- built building, Mr. Bryan went a bit farther with incorporating  Greek and Roman  architecture to create an impressive edifice.

The following are some of the mausoleums designed by Cecil Bryan.  Perhaps you may have seen some of these :

The Rockford Cemetery Mausoleum, Rockford, Illinois

The Beecher Cemetery Mausoleum, Beecher, Illinois
The Elmhurst Cemetery Mausoleum, Elmhurst, Illinois
Mr. Bryan designed and built other mausoleums in Lincoln, Hillsboro and Moline, Illinois.  In addition, he traveled to other Midwestern locations to tout his designs.  Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota and many other states have cemeteries where Mr. Bryan's mausoleums have been added to enhance their landscapes.  He is credited to have built over 80 mausoleums, and many have been registered as historic landmarks. 

The idea of building a mausoleum for storing the remains of lost lives is an idea that is not so new.  It has been a tradition in many civilizations of the world.  Hadrian's tomb in Rome, Italy, the Taj Mahal in India, Westminster Abbey in London, England and Joseph Francis' tomb in the House of Hapsburg in Vienna, Austria are just a few of the structures built to entomb the remains of those who have reigned in the past. 

The following photo of the mausoleum in Oak Brook, Illinois (formerly Hinsdale), built in 1913 at  the Bronswood Cemetery, shows Mr. Bryan's love of Roman architecture.  Fortunately, I have been able to enter this building which is kept locked to keep it from being vandalized.

The Bronswood Mausoleum, Bronswood Cemetery then located in Hinsdale, IL, 1913


Recent photo of the mausoleum at Bronswood Cemetery, 2009
Interior receiving room in the Bronswood Mausoleum

Interior stained glass, Bronswood mausoleum, Oak Brook, Illinois, 2009
Some families are lucky enough to purchase their own private entombment room, like the Norling and Chapek families, below:

The Norling private family entombment room
The Chapek family private room

The interior walls of Mr. Bryan's mausoleums are usually adorned with prayers and solemn quotes, such as the one below from the interior of the Bronswood  Cemetery mausoleum:

Interior wall of Bronswood Cemetery mausoleum
Each private family burial room has a beautiful stained glass window

Absolutely gorgeous designs used in the windows all over the interior of the Bronswood Cemetery mausoleum
To learn more about Cecil E. Bryan and his career in mausoleum design, consult
2009 exterior and interior photos of Bronswood Cemetery mausoleum take by S. R. Reif
Exterior photos of other mausoleums from the noted brochure, and can be found on

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