The state’s first community mausoleum is still standing, but the National Register-listed structure built in 1908 faces an uphill battle with each passing season. The Oxford Community Mausoleum in Benton County was named to Indiana Landmarks’ 10 Most Endangered List in 2021. “It’s not reached that point of real deterioration, but we are starting to see rehabilitation needs,” said Tommy Kleckner, director of Indiana Landmarks’ western regional office.
Once called “Mansions of the Dead,” community mausoleums became all the rage in cities and towns across Indiana in the early 20th Century. But the movement started in Ohio.
“The community mausoleum really promoted this type of structure as an efficient, more sanitary form of burial, and oftentimes, more affordable,” said Kleckner. “A gentleman by the name of William Hood, who patented a community mausoleum design, started the National Mausoleum Company and then began to sort of peddle this design around the Midwest.”
An unlock of the gates and a step through the arched opening, one can see the vaulted glass ceiling and lining the walls from top to bottom are four rows of Italian marble slabs. Just behind them are the crypts that house the deceased, nearly half of which were actually born before the Civil War.
But Kleckner says the structure has slowly fallen into disrepair, which led to being included on the Most Endangered list.
“We want to see the building brought back into a solid condition, preserve it, [and] ensure that it continues to function as a mausoleum, a respectful place for all those already here and those that may be interred here in the future,” he said.
Kleckner says the mausoleum needs repairs to the plaster, roof, and exterior masonry.
You can learn more about the mausoleum from Indiana Landmarks by clicking here.