Monday, October 31, 2011
Bellefontaine Cemetery, Part Three
We were lucky enough to snag a private tour of Bellefontaine Cemetery with Jean Steck, vice president of customer relations. But first, let's start with our awesome mode of transportation, the electric car that is street legal and can go something like 40 mph. This sucker can really take some corners. Jean is a fantastic tour guide and her passion for Bellefontaine is infectious. I'm so excited to be able to give you more details about sites I wondered about in past posts, and hope that this series encourages you to utilize Bellefontaine as the park it was designed to be.
Remember Ko Kuei Chen and Amy Ling Chen, the famous Chinese doctors from my first post? Turns out they were buried at Bellefontaine because the husband wanted to be buried near Dr William Beaumont, who you may remember from my second post. I love it when it all comes together like that!
I never quite got around to my plan of covering the WHOLE walking tour, but here's one that would have been in the next installment. William Clark, of Lewis & Clark fame, has a huge marker (above) that faces the Mississippi River. Some thought it should face west, but then it wouldn't be facing the road so nicely.
Another point of interest from the walking tour is the plot of Brigadeier General Richard Mason and Major General Don Carlos Buell, buried side by side because they were both married to to the same lady, Margaret Hunter Mason Buell, who is buried between them.
A famous site I had not yet covered in the blog but had talked to several people about is that of Herman Lutyies. The Girl in the Shadow Box is a favorite of many, because there are all sorts of romantic stories about the model for the statue. The story on the Bellefontaine website is that she was an Italian model who turned down Lutyies proposal of marriage, and that he had the sculpture commissioned and placed in his home. It was later moved to the cemetery plot, and when the elements started to wear it down, he had it covered in glass. I've also heard that it's just a statue of no real significance that he loved and his wife hated, and that they eventually divorced, and the wife is buried elsewhere in Bellefontaine. Obviously one story is far more romantic than the other.
This next one is one I took note of on our first visit just because it looks cool. Turns out, that's an underground mausoleum. See from the rear view how the top slab would slide back?
Another intriguing underground mausoleum is that of the Black family. I would love to get a peek at the inside of this one. Apparently there's a big ol' staircase that goes down and around to a large room. If you look at those pyramid vents on the plot, you can imagine just how big that room is. Incredible!
One of my favorite plots in Bellefontaine is that of the Francis family (above). David Rowland Francis was Mayor of St Louis, Governor of Missouri, President of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (1904 World's Fair), and later Ambassador to Imperial Russia. That statue is just everything I love about cemeteries. It seems like it should be as iconic as the Bird Girl statue.
We were able to see the inside of the recently renovated Hotchkiss Chapel, named after former cemetery superintendent Frank Hotchkiss. The stained glass windows are incredible.
Hotchkiss Chapel is a beautiful space for a small event, and yes, you can rent it our for weddings. Our friends Jesse and Jenni, who took the tour with us, decided to have their wedding there!
Now for the most exciting part, going inside two of the most famous mausoleums in the cemetery! These are the only two mausoleums where the families have given their permission for them to be opened to tours. The first, the Wainwright Tomb, is one of the most architecturally significant mausoleums in Bellefontaine.
Designed by Louis Sullivan, who also designed the Wainwright Building in downtown St Louis, for the wife of Ellis Wainwright, it is considered the "Taj Mahal of St Louis". Even the doors and keys to these mausoleums are incredible!
But the thing the Wainwright Tomb is most famous for is the mosaic work. It's absolutely stunning. You just don't see this kind of thing anymore.
Last but certainly not least, the mausoleum that St Louisans are dying to get into (it's Halloween in 30 minutes, give me a break), LEMP! I cannot believe that in all our excitement, no one stopped to take an exterior photo. This one is from when we went there last fall, when the Lemp Experience Tour was going inside and we were totally jealous.
The inside is marble, marble, and more marble, with some stained glass windows for good measure.
Even the light switches are marble:
It has heated at one point, too, but I think I recall that that turned out to be not such a great idea to heat a mausoleum. I'm already running long on this post, so I won't delve into the sad history of the Lemp family today. If you are unfamiliar and curious, I recommend this article from the Missouri History Museum website.
Boy, I feel like there is so much I left out, and there's still a whole section of the cemetery I haven't talked about in any of my posts, but it will have to be saved for another day. I hope that you get a chance to visit Bellefontaine soon to check out the fall color while the weather is still mild! Thank you to Jesse Hunt for arranging this tour for us, and to Jean Steck for being so awesome at her job!