Friday, November 22, 2013


If you were to wander the corridors of the magnificent community mausoleum at Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago, you might happen upon this crypt:

It is not a particularly remarkable crypt; there are many at Rosehill that are more elaborate.  It is not in a family room, it's just down one of the corridors.  What the crypt does not tell us is that it is the final resting place of the man who designed the Rosehill Mausoleum  - and forty-eight others of the finest, largest and most successful mausoleums to be found anywhere:  Sidney Lovell.  (Some sources credit Lovell with fifty-six mausoleums; I could only find evidence of forty-nine.)

Sidney Lovell

The March 26, 1913 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune carried the following advertisement:

Rosehill Cemetery was announcing that they would be building a community mausoleum at the cemetery. The ad lists the advantages of mausoleum entombment and even gives the reasons that a community mausoleum is preferable to a family mausoleum.  The ad triumphantly declared that the Rosehill Community Mausoleum (would) "Endure Until the End of Time."  One thing the advertisement does not tell, is the name of the architect who would be designing the beautiful marble temple.  Perhaps they did not give his name because he had never designed a community mausoleum before.  But even if Rosehill had listed his name, most people outside the would of architecture would have never heard of him.  

What can we find out about Sidney Lovell, the theater designer who instead would become better known and remembered for the mausoleums he designed?  Let's take a look:

Sidney Lovell was born February 26, 1867 in Racine, Wisconsin, to Phillip Lovell (1821-1875) and Louisa Maria nee Knill (1827-1917). Phillip and Louisa had both emigrated from England to Wisconsin. They met and married there in approximately 1848.

Sidney had eight brothers and sisters:  William (1850-1919), Frank (1851-????), Emily Louise (1857-1936), Henry (1859-1862), Charles (1861-1904), Julia (1863-1954), George (1865-1869), and Frederick (1869-1936).  Their father Phillip Lovell was a butcher, by trade.

In 1882, Colonel James M. Wood (1841-1903) arrived in Racine, Wisconsin for the grand opening of the Blake Opera House in which he was the architect.  Colonel Wood was a recognized Chicago architect who specialized in the designing of theaters. It was at this time that fifteen year-old Sidney Lovell met Colonel Wood, and when the Colonel left Racine for his next theater project at Wausau, Wisconsin in 1883, Sidney went with him.

After the theater project in Wausau was completed, Colonel Wood and Lovell traveled to Chicago and found work at Scenic Studio. It was during this time period that Sidney Lovell studied architecture, and passed an architectural examination.  A news article in the Racine Daily Journal dated August 10, 1885, states "Sid Lovell, now a full-fledged architect in Chicago, spent Sunday with his mother."

During 1885 to 1888, Wood and Lovell traveled from Michigan to California, designing and remodeling opera houses. Upon the completion of the remodeling of the Grand Opera House in California, Lovell was taken in as a partner, and the architectural firm of Wood and Lovell was established, with an office in San Francisco. This partnership produced many fine examples of theaters in the East Indian style of architecture between 1888 and 1893.

While working in San Francisco, Lovell met Jane Winters Bruner (1869-1953).  Jane was the daughter of noted physician and surgeon William Happersett Bruner (1826-1886) and his wife Jane Winters Woodruff. Sidney Lovell and Jane Bruner were married in San Francisco on April 16, 1890.  Sidney and Jane were blessed with two children:  Marion McDonald Lovell (1895-1960) and Alice B. Lovell (1897-????)

In 1893, the firm of Wood and Lovell relocated their offices to the newly built Ellsworth Building at 537 S. Dearborn Street in Chicago, Illinois.

537 S. Dearborn, Chicago

Their interest in theater design continued with great success and many fine examples were produced.  After Colonel Wood's death in 1903, Sidney Lovell continued the work of designing theaters and single family homes in Chicago and outlying areas.

Here's a mention in the Chicago Daily Tribune of May 23, 1897:

And another mention from July 16, 1904:

Neither of these buildings still exist today.

In 1912, Sidney Lovell was approached to design a community mausoleum for Rosehill Cemetery.  Lovell related that he was asked to design a building that would show security and permanence.  He had no experience designing mausoleums prior to this, but he decided that this was a challenge he wanted to tackle.

From the beginning, Lovell decided that the Rosehill Mausoleum would be better than all mausoleums built to date.  He had a budget of $300,000 so only the finest materials would be used.  One innovation would be that all interior surfaces would be marble - floors, walls, and even the ceilings.  (It turned out that marble ceilings were not used until Unit 2 was built in 1919).  And further, only the finest marble would be used.  The original sections of the Rosehill Mausoleum are built of Yule Creek marble - the rarest and purest of all marble - and the most expensive.  It is the same marble that was used for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.  Lovell spent $50,000 on the Yule Creek Marble alone.  For more information on Yule Creek marble, check out

The Rosehill Mausoleum quickly came to be known as "The Westminster Abbey of America".

Ground was broken April 10, 1913.

Rosehill's display ads in the Tribune kept people informed about progress with the mausoleum.  From September 9, 1913:

On April 9, 1916 it was finally announced that the Rosehill Mausoleum was "Now Completed (and) will be open for inspection Sunday Afternoon:

Over the main entrance:

The three panels of the frieze along the facade:

Even the corners of Lovell's mausoleums are works of art in themselves:

Unlike some of his other mausoleums, Lovell's name is not mentioned anywhere at Rosehill:

Many people think that embalmed bodies interred in above-ground mausoleums will not decompose. That is not true.  Decomposition is a natural process that produces fluids and gasses unless moisture is removed from the crypt.  As you walk through the corridors of a mausoleum you don't think about the fact that there are hundreds of bodies decomposing behind those walls, at different rates and at different stages of the process.  Sidney Lowell knew this, however, and actually patented a process to ensure that each crypt was properly ventilated with a fresh supply of dry air.  Here is a drawing of the process which Lovell included with his patent application filed May 16, 1917:

and here's a copy of the explanation of the process itself:

For this, Lovell received Patent #1244109 on October 23, 1917.

I have looked inside empty crypts in the Rosehill mausoleum.  If you didn't know it was there you wouldn't see it, but in the back of each crypt is the pipe Lovell talks about to allow gasses to escape, and dry air flow into the crypt.  Before a crypt is used, the mausoleum attendant removes the cover from the ventilation pipe at the back of the crypt.  It is done before mourners arrive, so people are not aware that it happens.  I have also been in the basement of Unit 1 (the oldest section) at Rosehill.  Extending down from the ceiling are literally hundreds of pipes, each that connect to a crypt.  As long as Lovell's process is used, and there is a constant flow of fresh dry air into each crypt, "exploding caskets" are eliminated and any unpleasant smell is minimized.

Back at Rosehill, a major portion of Phase I was sold before ground had even been broken.  The first phase had been so successful that on July 9, 1919 they announced that an addition to the mausoleum would be built:

Construction on Phase II started in May of 1920:

And the roof was in place by October 6, 1920:

A Second Addition to the mausoleum was announced October 12, 1923:

And in July of 1925, the "Central Unit" was announced:

They now referred to it as the "Mansion of the Silent."

The 4th Addition was announced November 3, 1929:

Rosehill ran weekly display ads like the ones shown above, all through the 1920s.  They ran their last display ad on November 21, 1930.  No ads were run until October 22, 1935, and that was to announce the 5th Addition to the mausoleum:

That was the only display ad run in 1935.  It is surprising that in the depths of the Great Depression Rosehill was willing to put up the money to expand the mausoleum yet again.  The Depression did affect their advertising budget however, because only one display ad was run in 1936, and no further display ads until May of 1942 announcing the 6th addition:

Here are the units at the Rosehill Mausoleum that Lovell was involved in, and the dates each was constructed:

Original            Unit 1     April 10, 1913
1st Addition     Unit 2     July 1919-1920
2nd Addition    Unit 2     October, 1923
Central Unit     Unit 3     July, 1925
4th Addition     Unit 4     November, 1929
5th Addition     Unit 5     October, 1935
6th Addition     Unit 6     May, 1942

I bet you didn't know that the halls at the Rosehill Mausoleum had names.  Here are the names of the halls on the main floor (Garden Level):

And here are the names of the halls on the ground floor (Terrace Level):

There was one mistake made with the construction, however.  Whether it was Lovell's mistake (doubtful) or the management of Rosehill is not known.  Here is a view of the mausoleum from above from Google Earth:

The areas below Unit 1 and above Unit 5 in the view above are closed in.  They can only be reached from within the mausoleum by going down stairs and out a door, but there is no access from outside the mausoleum.  It is, in effect, "dead space."  The areas are let grow wild and every few years when the growth becomes too much, everything is cut down to ground level and the growth cycle begins again.  If the management of Rosehill were smart, they would turn these areas into exclusive private burial gardens, along the lines of the enclosed "Gardens of Memory" at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.  I have suggested this several times, to no avail.

Between 1912 and 1933, Sidney Lovell designed forty-nine mausoleums in the Midwest:

State   City Name Date
Illinois   Chicago Rosehill Mausoleum 1912
Iowa   Sioux City Graceland Park Mausoleum 1917
Kansas     Independence Mount Hope Abbey Mausoleum 1917
Missouri   St. Louis Valhalla Mausoleum 1917
Illinois   Sycamore Sycamore Mausoleum 1918
Ohio    Piqua Forest Hill Mausoleum 1918
Oklahoma   Oklahoma City Fairlawn Mausoleum 1918
Michigan   Saginaw Oakwood Mausoleum 1919
Oklahoma   Oklahoma City Rose Hill Mausoleum 1919
Virginia   Norfolk Forest Lawn Mausoleum 1919
Kansas   Wichita Old Mission Mausoleum 1920
Michigan   Lansing Deepdale Mausoleum 1921
Texas   Sherman Sherman Mausoleum 1922
Illinois   Astoria Astoria Memorial Mausoleum 1923
Illinois   Dixon Oakwood Memorial Mausoleum 1924
Illinois   Sterling Riverside Memorial Mausoleum 1924
New York   Valhalla Kensico Mausoleum 1924
Pennsylvania   Allentown Grandview Memorial Mausoleum 1924
Illinois   Bloomington Park Hill Mausoleum 1925
Illinois   Jacksonville Diamond Grove Mausoleum 1925
Missouri   Kansas City Forest Hill Abbey Mausoleum 1925
Ohio   Defiance Riverside Memorial Mausoleum 1925
Michigan   Flint Sunset Hills Mausoleum 1926
Missouri   St. Louis Mount Hope Memorial Mausoleum 1926
Missouri   St. Louis Oak Grove Mausoleum 1926
Ohio   Mayfield Hts Knollwood Mausoleum 1926
Illinois   Decatur Fairlawn Memorial Mausoleum 1927
Kansas   Eureka Greenwood Abbey Mausoleum 1927
Kansas   Salina Hillcrest Mausoleum 1927
Ohio   Youngstown Tod Memorial Mausoleum 1927
Florida   Miami Woodlawn Park Mausoleum 1928
Kansas   Topeka Mount Hope Mausoleum 1928
Texas   Houston Forest Park Abbey Mausoleum 1928
Illinois   Glen Carbon Sunset Hill Mausoleum 1929
Illinois    Pekin Lakeside Memorial Mausoleum 1929
Illinois   Peoria Springdale Mausoleum 1929
New Jersey   Camden Harleigh Memorial Mausoleum 1929
Ohio   Napoleon Forest Hill Mausoleum 1929
Oklahoma   Blackwell Greenlawn Abbey Mausoleum 1929
Pennsylvania   Pittsburgh Mt. Royal Memorial Mausoleum 1929
Texas   Amarillo Llano Pantheon Mausoleum 1929
Wisconsin   Fond du Lac Rienzi Memorial Mausoleum 1930
Kansas   Emporia Maplewood Mausoleum 1931
Ohio   Cleveland Mayfield Mausoleum 1931
Indiana   South Bend Highland Mausoleum 1932
Kansas   Hutchinson Fairlawn Mausoleum 1932
Minnesota   Minneapolis Sunset Chapel Mausoleum  1933
Wisconsin   Appleton Riverside Mausoleum (never built) N/A
Michigan   Caro Caro Community Mausoleum  Unknown

Here is a map representation of the Lovell mausoleums:

Sometime about 1924, Sidney Lovell's son, Marion McDonald Lovell (1895-1960) joined his father's firm, which was then know as "Lovell and Lovell."

From the very beginning, the private Family Memorial Rooms at the Rosehill Mausoleum were very popular with Chicago's elite.  In the early 1960s, Rosehill published a pamphlet called "Cemetery and Mausoleum Facts."  In the pamphlet was a list of "Owners of Memorial Rooms in Rosehill Mausoleum."  Here is the list:

Mrs. Augusta Abram
Mrs. Helen L. Adams
Franklin Ames
Lillian C. Appleton
Hugo F. Arnold
Frederick C. Austin
Sewall Avery

Mrs. Lillian D. Bamberger
Francis N. Bard
Mrs. Cecille Benedict
J.A. Benjamin
Norman E. Bensinger
Mrs. Dorothy Cole Berger
Coloman Berki
Thomas C. Bermingham
Mrs. Johanna B. Bersbach
Mrs. Philip Blazer
Emanuel J. Block
Joseph L. Block
L.E. Block
Mrs. Rose L. Block
John Blocki
Alfred Blomquist
Leopold Bloom
David Blum
Harry Blum
Mrs. Nanda H. Blum
Mrs. Dwight S. Bobb
Albert C. Bodman
Henry T. Boerlin
Thomas J. Bolger
Walter E. Botthoff
Charles B. Burt
Mrs. George A. Bush
Oscar Brickman
Michael Britten
Mrs. Anton Brust
Brittin I. Budd
Daniel Burkhartsmeier
Mrs. Mary Burkhartsmeier
Mrs. Dorothea Burks

Mr. and Mrs. Rolly M. Cain
C.C. Carr
Robert F. Carr
Homer W. Chandler
Daniel R. Chernyk
Julius P. Chernyk
Bonnie C. Clark
Estate of Eugene B. Clark
Almer Coe
Mrs. Elmer F. Cole
Charles R. Cole
Peter W. Coppersmith
Frederick D. Corley
James C. Cox
Fred B. Cozzens
Charles E. Crown, Jr.
Irving Crown

John W. Dalman
Mrs. Hugo Dalmar
Ira C. Darling
Henry M. Dawes
Mrs. Henry G. Dawson
Mr. and Mrs. John C. Deagan
Joseph H. Defrees
Lewis Degan
Mrs. Pauline E. Deming
Wesley Dempster
Mrs. Samuel Deutsch
Harvey C. Devereaux
Alan C. Dixon
George W. Dixon
John N. Dole
Mrs. R.B. Donham
Scott M. Douglas
Joseph Downey
Mr. & Mrs. Joseph S. Duncan
John H. Dunham
Lee Y. Dunham

Mrs. Louis Eckstein
Charles M. Eddy
Emil Eiger
Mrs. Moses Eisenstaedt
Mrs. Albert Ellinger
Mrs. Percy M. Elliott
Charles S. Ellis
John W. Embree
Edward A. Engler
Leola S. Epstein
Alma Escher
Paul Escher

John N. Faithorn
Mrs. Joseph Finn
Mrs. Harry Fisher
Mrs. Washington Flexner
Harry J. Flood
Louis Florsheim
Mrs. Milton S. Florsheim
Mrs. John B. Foley
Charles K. Foster
Abraham J. Freiler
Rosamund Freund
L.J. Friedman

Mrs. William A. Gardner
Belle W. Gedwitz
John S. Giles
Charles W. Gillett
John H. Goessele
Mrs. Egbert H. Gold
Mrs. Lillian Goldsmith
Samuel Goodman
Mr. and Mrs. M. Martin Gordon
J. Parker Gowing
Walter R. Green
Benjamin B. Green-Field
David I. Green-Field
John B. Grommes
Ward E. Guest
Arnold Gundelfinger

Mrs. Carl Hansen
Mrs. Lesly C. Harbison
Mrs. Marie Price Harrah
Leslie R. Harsha
Leon Hartman
Milton L. Hartman
Henry E. Hedberg
Albert Heller
Benjamin Heller
George Herrmann
Mrs. Cora Heyman
Adolph Hieronymus
Mrs. Georgiana Hill
Charles W. Hills
John William Hirst
Howard H. Hitchcock
Mrs. William L. Hodgkins
Barney Ets Hokin
Allen C. Howes
Frank W. Howes
Richard W. Howes
Mortimer L. Hudson
Ernest M. Hunt
Mrs. John D. Hurley
Max E. Hyman

Mrs. Bertha Helm James
Sidney T. Jessop
Charles W. Jinnette
William A. Johnert
Edgar A. Jonas
George W. Jones

Sidney H. Kahn
Morton J. Kallis
Norman S. Kaplan
A.E. Kauffman
Robert W. Keeton
Mrs. Elodia C. Kehm
Mrs. Clarence Kellogg
James S. Kemper
Philip C.  Kessler
Mrs. Charles M. Kittle
Bertram A. Klein
Leon Klein
Mrs. Theodore A. Klein
Mrs. Clara P. Knoke
Mrs. Birdie Mintz Koch
Maurice Kozminski
Herman L. Kretschmer
Stella Krom
Benjamin and Lilly G. Kulp
Ruth Kunin
George B. Kurtzon

Josephine B. Laeffler
Miss Ida M. Lang
Robert L. Langford
Henry A. Langhorst
Albert D. Lasker
H.B. Leavitt
Mrs. Elma H. Levis
John M. Levis
Alexander M. Levy
Henry R. Levy
Silas Libby
Walter Lister
Andrew S. Littlefield
Philip O. Lochman
Theodore K. Long
James Lyons

Paul H. Manz
Mrs. Matie Flannery Mark
Meyer S. Marks
Mrs. Ida Marks
Robert Mautz
Mrs. Levy Mayer
William Wallace McCallum
Jay C. McCord
Miss Olga Menn
Mrs. B.F. Metzenberg
Alfred C. Meyer
Joseph Michaels (Heirs of)
Mrs. John S. Miller
Mrs. Florine C. Mix
Richard P. Moffott
Nicholas P. Moses
Mrs. Beatrice J. Monheimer
Mrs. Mary A. Morgan
Walter P. Murphy
Mrs. Louisa Mutter

Mrs. Jacob Newman
A.C. Nielsen
George J. Nikolas
George J. Nikolas, Jr.
Arthur G. Norris

Cassius O. Owen

Thomas L. Parker
Mrs. George W. Pattullo
Mrs. Walter B. Pearson
Daniel Peterkin
Albert Pick
Milton S. Plotke
Frank W. Porter
Edgar A. Potter
Forest Pratt
Georgia K. Gann and
  Eleanor Gann Prosser

Frederick H. Rawson
Mrs. Edith M. Reade
Joseph Regenstein
William Renshaw
Isaac and Emma Rice
Mrs. Otto M. Rice
William T. Richards
George P. Richardson
Mrs. Milton Robinson
Robert M. Roloson
Benjamin J. Rosenthal
Lubin L. Rosenthal
Maurice L. Rothschild
Mrs. Rosine Rubin

Mrs. Albine Sachsel
Percy G. Saunders
George A. and Ethel Saylor
Peter J. Schaefer
Morton G. Schamberg
Mrs. Albert C. Schmidt
Ernst R. Schmidt
George K. Schmidt
Elmer E. Schram
Harry S. Schram
Theodore Schwarz
Richard W. Sears
Andrew E. Seaver
N. Marshall Seeburg
John C. Shaffer
Eulah P. Shaw
John G. Shedd
Mrs. Marjorie Sherman
George L. Shuman
Harry L. Siegel
Sigmund Silberman
Lewis J. Silverman
William J. Sinek
Mrs. Elsie Paine Smith
Harry T. Smith
Louise B. and Hugo Sonnenschein
Isidore Spinner
Mrs. Josephine Kean Stafford
P.A. Stark
Albert Stein
William D. Stein
Charles Stein
Alfred W. Stern
Mrs. Henry L. Stern
Herman Stern
Lawrence F. Stern
Mrs. Alice M. Stevens
Charles A. Stevens
Harry M. Stevenson
Christian H. Stoelting
Frank B. Stone
William E. Straight
David Straus
Mrs. Irma B. Straus
M.L. Straus
Madeline B. Straus
S.J.T. Straus
A.R. Stumer
Mrs. Pauline Suekoff
Nate J. Sugar
Dollie Swarts
Delia F. Sweeten
Mrs. Hortense M. Swift

Oren B. Taft
Sherman Taylor
William L. Taylor
Gale Thompson
George R. Thorne
Albert S. Tyler
Mrs. Caroline Macalister Tyler

Charles F. Unrath

Sanford S. Vaughan
William H. Vehon

Herman Waldeck
Clara J. Walker
A. Montgomery Ward
James V. Watson
Mrs. Hannah Weil
Charles H. Wheeler
Harry A. Wheeler
George E. White
Charles B. Willey
Albert H. Williams
Ednyfed H. Williams
Richard L. Williams
Mrs. Celia M. Wolf
Joseph Wolf
Chris J. Wolff
Warren Wright

Mrs. Millie Alma Young

Homer G.  Zimmerman

Sidney Lovell died on August 6, 1938 in Chicago from heart disease:

Here is his obituary and death notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune of August 7, 1938:

On August 8, 1938, Sidney Lovell was laid to rest in his greatest accomplishment - the Rosehill Mausoleum where he remains to this day. He rests in the midst of the beauty he created.

When theater architect Sidney Lovell was approached in 1912 by the Rosehill Cemetery Company, he was asked to design a community mausoleum that would show security and permanence.  He did such a fine job that he went on to design at least forty-eight other mausoleums, as well as additions to the Rosehill Mausoleum.  We are lucky that Lovell's talent is still around for us today to enjoy, and still exhibiting that same security and permanence.

Sidney Lovell - architect extraordinare - may he rest in peace.

I don't want to end this article without mentioning the accomplishments of Jane Bruner Lovell, the wife of Sidney Lovell.  She was a championship Contract Bridge player.  Under her professional name of Mrs. Sidney Lovell she won the Vanderbilt trophy in 1928 and the National Open Pairs competition in 1929.  She is considered one of the truly great bridge players of her era.  Jane Bruner Lovell died in 1953 and is interred next to her husband in the Rosehill Mausoleum.

Acknowledgements:  This article about the life and work of Sidney Lovell would not have been possible without the assistance of David G. Stuart.  Dave has studied Lovell and his work for years and has amassed a tremendous amount of material, which he freely shared with me, and has made available to anyone who is interested via the Internet:

Dave is such a fan of the work of Sidney Lovell that he has purchased his own final resting place in one of Lovell's mausoleums:  The Old Mission Mausoleum in Wichita, Kansas.

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