Saturday, September 22, 2012

Death Styles of the Rich and Famous

Those who know me well realize that I’ve spent a great deal of time in cemeteries. While it’s hardly a record, I’ve been to cemeteries in 77 locations in 12 states. Offhand, I cannot tell you how many I’ve visited as many of those aforementioned locations had several of these resting places. Since I’ve done much of my cemetery research in Pennsylvania, some of the towns where I’ve researched grave markers had quite a few cemeteries.

One of my favorite locations is Homewood at the edge of the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. It’s rolling hills and pastoral setting is a perfect backdrop for some of the more interesting monuments and mausoleums in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.


While taking a leisurely drive through Homewood Cemetery last Friday, I rounded a corner and a stream of yellow light caught my eye. I backed up my car and noticed that it was the stained glass in a mausoleum. I parked and grabbed my camera to snap one of the most interesting examples of stained glass I’ve ever seen.

I’ve been aware that some mausoleums had stained glass windows, but never paid any attention to these works of art. I decided to look at several examples of (cue the Robin Leach impersonation) the “Death Styles of the Rich and Famous.” All but one of the following examples come from Homewood Cemetery. These are typically located on the rear wall, but several also have side windows as well.

This first example is the one that started the idea of this series and remains my favorite memorial glass art. From a simple mausoleum with an Egyptian motif, this picture of Cleopatra is truly amazing. It is in surprisingly good shape with the exception of the flaking of the brown paint in the headdress and the fading of the colors around the bars that protect the window.

This is from the tomb of the William S. Stimmel family. Stimmel was the manager of the John Hancock Insurance office in Pittsburgh. Stimmel was also an art collector and it is only fitting that one of the more beautiful examples of funerary art was found in his final resting place.


The Stimmel glass was not the first I had photographed – that distinction belongs to a window in historic Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans. I spied the monument for Laure Beauregard Larendon and its circle of stained glass during a visit to the cemetery in July 2012. This particular glass is unusual because it was open on both sides and was not inside of a mausoleum.

This beautiful design also includes nine cut glass jeweled inserts. The monument and window were commissioned by Laure Larendon’s famous father Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, the Confederate General. Her husband was Colonel Charles A. Larendon of South Carolina.


Typical of many windows are simplistic geometric designs. I like this one as the border reminds me of a Persian rug and the pastel glass in the center is similar to Amish hex signs. This window is found in the family crypt for Edward Worthington, Jr. Worthington was the assistant auditor for the Penn Oil Company.


In the tomb of oil magnate John A. Steel, four members of this family – husband, wife, son, and mother-in-law are bathed in the serene light of this pastoral scene. Notice the detail of the white and purple lilies in the lower left corner. The location of this mausoleum is in one of the higher elevations of the cemetery and its interior is one of the more pristine I’ve seen.


This cannot be said of the Young tomb which was erected in 1907. Although the external façade is beautiful, the window shows damage. Notice that one of the pieces of glass is missing, another has slipped from of its associated lead came, and a third is broken and missing a piece. I tend to believe that the face of the angel probably that of the patriarch of the family. Note that the flesh tone of the neck is nearly gone and beginning to flake off on the face.

Because of the broken glass, water inside the structure has allowed mold and mildew to accumulate on the window. This is the worst example that I have in this series and I’ve only included it to show what could happen when one of these works of art are damaged. This tomb is the final resting place of the Andrew Gray Young and his family. Young was a traffic manager in the steel industry and the tomb was constructed following the death of his daughter Agnes Gray Young.


Another pastoral scene is found in James W. Cheswright’s mausoleum. The sun was directly hitting the top left portion of the window, so it appears washed out. This window is not without some damage as the lowest blue pane is cracked at it appears that it was hit by a hailstone in the past. There may also be some cracks in the orange colored glass as well.

There is also dirt and cobwebs that one might expect. In addition, the front glass doors were very dirty with mold on the inside indicating that there was some water seepage in this structure over its lifetime. Its owner was an officer in the North American Savings Company.


David P. Reighard’s mausoleum has a traditional funerary design with the lilies of the valley. This was shot with direct sunlight that shows a shadow of the grating on the outside of the window used to protect the window and prevent access to the interior.

Reighard’s primary business concern was in oil; however, he also held interest in Duquesne Light Company, the Pittsburgh and Allegheny Telephone Company, and Central Bank of Pittsburgh.


The Frederick J. Kress family lies in state in a modern styled mausoleum which is on the Dallas Avenue side of the cemetery. Unlike the other monuments I perused, its window was of a different size than others.

This window is a fairly standard Christian design of a cross and a crown that might be found in a church building. Its vibrant colors and geometric designs are elegant.


Shaped much like the Rotunda at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the Henry J. Heinz (yes that Heinz) mausoleum is a medium sized, but impressive piece of architecture with a Romanesque portal. In the rear of the crypt is a Romanesque window depicting Gabriel holding lilies.

The colors of this window are muted, but that should not be an interpretation that the quality of the workmanship is lesser in this Old World style window. The Heinz name is synonymous with ketchup and the 57 varieties for which the H.J. Heinz Company was once known to produce.


Unlike the tomb of his brother-in-law Henry J. Heinz, Sebastian Mueller's window's colors were not muted. In addition to his family connection, Mueller was a vice president of the H.J. Heinz company. His mausoleum is found in another section of Homewood Cemetery.

This Egyptian themed crypt is fronted with a winged sun and impressive columns. The structure is not square, but tapers and has an interesting pediment in an Egyptian style fit for a pharaoh. The window glass depicts the pyramids along the Nile.

While the physical structure of the window was in excellent condition, there appears to be some flaking of the paint on the left side and some outside water stains on the right third of this piece of art.


One of the larger mausoleums in the cemetery is for the Benedum family. Having made his fortune in the oil business, Micheal Late Benedum’s tomb is not only impressive, but it has its own courtyard surrounding the crypt. The Romanesque window depicts a warrior at the end of his journey flanked by the archangel Michael and the messenger angel Gabriel.

At the bottom of the window, a quote of Mark 10:45 intimates the ministering functions of this family, as the Benedum name in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia is synonymous with philanthropy. Our university has a Benedum Center – a gift of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The window is starting to show some damage on some of the darker gray panels.


Finally, our last example may be one of the more expensive windows in Homewood Cemetery. Found in the crypt for the Albert C. Opperman family, it is the only window in this installment that contains a company’s mark. Franz Xavier Zettler of Munich may have been the best known stained glass artisan in Europe during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Zettler graduated from Munich Art Academy in the 1860s and apprenticed under his father-in-law Joseph Mayer, another well known artist. While any number of artists in Zettler’s firm could have crafted this window, a Zettler window was a prized possession for any structure. While Opperman, who owned a lumber concern, was not one of Pittsburgh’s wealthiest residents, his window is summarily impressive.

This scene doesn’t follow typical funerary art in that it depicts a mother with two of her children. The craftsmanship is exquisite. Unfortunately, an urn with a dried arrangement obscures a portion of the window.

Because these windows are found in mausoleums, their beauty is hidden from the general public. I felt they needed to be revealed.  While I did not depict any of the structures, the windows held the hidden beauty for these “Death Styles of the Rich and Famous.”  In closing, as Robin Leach would say, “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.” Dreams bathed in elegant colors, that is, until eternity.


  1. I typically do cemeteries/mausoleums without this kind of artwork. Beautiful! Guess I'll have to change my search "style". :-)

    Brownie MacKie

  2. Glad to provide an inspiration Brownie.