Artist Carol Oldenburg adds new life to a century old mausoleum at Prospect Hill Cemetery. A New business model that will preserve the resting place of some famous York families. A 19th century idea of providing above ground burial went from polish, to bankruptcy to a new business model that will preserve the building and it’s history into the future.
“It’s like walking into a church,” said Carol Oldenburg, a York painter who rendered the blue sky and white clouds on the wall and ceiling.
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Climb the stone steps between two mammoth granite sphinxes. Nearly 100 years ago, a company from Cleveland had them carved them from two granite blocks.
Open the polished brass doors. Observe the two marble columns lifting upward into blue sky caught between billowing clouds. Below this, the Christian messiah, projected in light through colored glass crafted by artists a century ago, waits to ascend to heaven.
Polished marble corridors lead left and right. Etched into walls are the names of those entombed here — names still well-known in York history. Civil War veteran and newspaper owner Lewis E. Smyser. Dr. Samuel Pfaltzgraff. Local business magnate Thomas A. Shipley.
Area artists, craftsmen
and maintenance workers are beginning to transform the old building into what owner Jack Sommer hopes it can become again.
“It’s like walking into a church,” said Carol Oldenburg, a York painter who rendered the blue sky and white clouds on the wall and ceiling
When he first set foot in the mausoleum in 2004, shortly after he took over Prospect Hill Cemetery and Cremation Gardens, Sommer could see greatness beneath the disrepair. The roof needed replacing. Paint curled and chipped from walls and ceilings. Puddles covered the floor in spots, and in others dirt hid the luster.
Though still structurally sound, the Vermont marble was crumbling. The stained-glass windows were punctured, and grime held the light at bay.
replaced the roof and started upgrading the building. When Sommer took ownership, he continued the job with the help of private donations.
Ehrhart Stained Glass Inc. disassembled the Christ-figure window. It took about three months to replace portions of broken glass, clean it and return it to its former glory.
Organizers of the project selected Oldenburg, a well-known artist who’d done murals and paintings for places like the U.S. Embassy in Lomé, Togo, Africa, and also displays in galleries in York.
Earlier artists had painted a night sky on the walls and ceiling. “It felt oppressive,” she said. She opted for clouds and blue sky “to give a feeling of hope.”
She enlisted the help of Janie Reeves, of Design 2 Finish, who added
faux marble paint to plaster. It makes the columns appear to travel up to the ceiling.
The cemetery will rededicate the mausoleum this spring. Work isn’t finished. As more funding becomes available, other stained-glass windows in the mausoleum will be restored, and Oldenburg will extend her mural.
Building dedicated: 1915
Design: The American Mausoleum Company from Cleveland, Ohio, designed the building. The supervising architect was Edward Leber. Rudy Brothers and Company designed and manufactured the stained-glass windows.
History: The York Mausoleum Company maintained the building on land it leased from the board of trustees of