Illinois Ten Most Endangered Landmarks

Beecher Mausoleum 

 

recognized by Landmarks Illinois as one of

“Illinois Ten Most Endangered Landmarks”

At an official press conference

Tuesday, April 30, Landmarks Illinois

 

http://www.landmarks.org/ten_most_2013_community_mausoleums.htm, a statewide partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, named ‘community mausoleums’ to their list of ten most endangered historic places, a list compiled every year since 1995.

Although dozens of applications are received each year, only ten make the annual list.

“It is a great achievement for the Beecher Mausoleum to be included in the state’s top ten endangered list,” said Sandra Lee Thielman, president of the Beecher Mausoleum Association, the management board overseeing the mausoleum and the Guardian Angels not-for-profit organization, established to restore and preserve the site.

The Beecher Mausoleum was one of two mausoleums specifically highlighted by Landmarks Illinois to represent the community mausoleum category. The other was the Fernwood Mausoleum in Roodhouse, Green County, Illinois. The two are representative of between an estimated 50 and 100 mausoleums across the state of Illinois that may also be in peril.

Beecher’s mausoleum was built during the height of the community mausoleum movement in the early part of the 20th century. Constructed in 1913, the Beecher Mausoleum was designed by Cecil Bryan, a renowned Chicago architect and engineer who once worked with Frank Lloyd Wright.

The neoclassical building is made of reinforced concrete with a Bedford stone veneer and white marble interior.

Over the years, the Beecher Mausoleum has shared the same fate as many other community mausoleums across the country. Management boards and funds for support and maintenance have long been exhausted. Repeated vandalism has taken its toll. The future of the Beecher Mausoleum remains uncertain. Despite being named for Beecher, the building is located outside Beecher’s village limits. St, Luke’s Cemetery is adjacent to the mausoleum, but has no affiliation with it. Consequently, neither bears legal responsibility for the mausoleum.

“This elegant but deteriorating structure symbolizes the growing problem of neglected or abandoned historic mausoleums,” said Bonnie McDonald, President of Landmarks Illinois. “We hope citizens, local officials and state legislators can discuss ways to improve existing legal regulations and oversight policies regarding ownership of these structures and the treatment of human remains interred there, which have slowed many rehabilitation efforts.”

Recognition by Landmarks Illinois culminates a 17-year effort led by Thielman to restore and perpetually care for the building that houses three generations of her family. Many other prominent citizens and founding fathers of the Village of Beecher and Washington Township, are also interred there, along with many veterans from the Civil War as well as World Wars I and II.

Thielman attended the April 30th press conference. She was joined by other board members Donald Bahlman, a descendant of the Bahlman family interred in the mausoleum, and Bob Howard, who is also a member of the Will County Board and former Washington Township Supervisor. Also present was John Bry, Founder of the National Historic Cemetery and Mausoleum Center, based in Auburn, Indiana. See http://www.hallowedspaces.org

Thielman has learned of many problems statewide similar to those in Beecher. Her request for assistance from Landmarks Illinois is not limited to Beecher’s Mausoleum, but for all neglected and abandoned cemeteries and mausoleums in Illinois.

“A statewide solution is needed,” she said. “It has already been done in other parts of the country. If other states can do it, Illinois certainly can as well.”

To commemorate Memorial Day, an open house will be held at the Beecher Mausoleum from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 26 and Monday, May 27.

Landmarks Illinois Ltr 11.2014

You can click this link to open the letter for easier reading

LANDMARKS ILLINOIS ANNUAL FUND DRIVE 11-2014

Beecher Mausoleum On Its Way To ‘National’ Designation

February 14, 2013 Beecher Herald

Century-old Beecher Mausoleum could be placed on the prestigious National Register of Historic Places this year

by Karen Haave

 

THE BEECHER MAUSOLEUM has been listed as a Will County Historic Landmark and could soon boast a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, if Sandra Lee Thielman and the mausoleum association have their way.

The century-old Beecher Mausoleum could find its way to placement on the prestigious National Register of Historic Places some time this year.

Already listed as an Historic Will County Landmark, the handsome burial building’s association board members now are pursuing the hard-to-get national designation that will help bring wider recognition, as well as a tax incentive.

Beecher Mausoleum Guardian Angel Association President Sandra Lee Thielman met last week with historic preservation consultant Kurt West Wagner, to inspect the building and to begin the complicated application for national designation.

“Kurt is completing our final application to the National Register,” Thielman explained.
“The application is a little tricky and has to be prepared well. I have already submitted a preliminary application to the State of Illinois. All applications must go through their states first and be approved for submission to the National Register. The State of Illinois has given us approval to submit the final application. Once the final application is submitted to the state, we have to make it through a technical review, then the application is blessed by the state and sent to the National Register.

“It could take just two or three months, or I have heard as long as six- to-eight months, depending on the state’s backlog.

“I have spoken to our state rep about our application and she does not believe there will be any problems.

“So I’m pretty confident we’ll be on the National Register this year.

“What the National Register means to the Beecher Mausoleum is mostly prestige,” Thielman conceded.

“It will bring awareness to the building through the National Park Service. It will also provide what is called a tax incentive to any person or company that preforms work on the building, which is desperately needed.

“The Beecher Mausoleum is already a Will County Landmark, and I have submitted another application to the State of Illinois to be listed on the Ten Most Endangered Landmarks list. This listing will bring awareness through advertising from the State of Illinois.”

Thielman’s enthusiasm for preservation of the mausoleum–built in 1913 at the behest of her ancestors–is evident as she speaks of its past and the efforts to keep it standing.
“Just a little more history,” she said.

“There are over 400 of these historic mausoleum buildings all across our country. Many are in the same position as Beecher. The history tells us that at the turn of the century, the idea of above-ground burial became popular and a mausoleum construction company in Ohio sent salesmen out all across our country to sell the communities on the idea. Many communities just like Beecher embraced the idea and put the gears in motion to build such a building for themselves. They hired an architect, like Cecil Bryan, or Sidney Lovell. They are only two examples of architects who designed these building.

“I have identified 50 historic mausoleums in the State of Illinois alone,” she continued.
“Once an architect was found, a plan settled on and its cost to build the mausoleums (determined), the community would pre-sell the crypt spaces in order to raise the construction cost funds. They would locate a piece of land, mostly inside of community cemeteries, buy the needed land and built the buildings.

“St. Luke’s cemetery was not always St. Luke’s. It was originally the community cemetery and (around) 1902 or 1905, the community asked St. Luke’s to take it over. St. Luke’s is a village church, as it does not have property next to the church for its own cemetery. St. Luke’s took over the cemetery. I’m not sure if it was St. Luke’s who sold the land the mausoleum stands on or not. I haven’t tracked down the original land transaction yet! I do know William Selk (he and his wife are interred in the mausoleum), donated the property that is now Cemetery Drive (the driveway off of Route 1 that leads to St. Luke’s cemetery and the mausoleum).

“The problems these buildings face is the same story over and over again,” Thielman pointed out.

“After the buildings were built, a board was elected to manage the buildings, but in many cases, after the original board members died, many boards did not continue. The funds ran out from general maintenance, vandalism or from the depression or bad investments, etc.

“Many mausoleums were embraced by their communities and cared for, many were absorbed into the village, city or townships and had continued care and were maintained.

“Many, many others were ignored, with the local community saying they were privately owned and it was not their problem, and left to decay from lack of maintenance.

“There are many that have already been demolished. The cost of demolishing these buildings can be extremely expensive. You have to move all the bodies, buy new burial plots for them and the concrete surround that is put in the ground where the caskets are placed.

“With the new Illinois Law brought on by the Burr Oak Cemetery scandal (last year), it is now required that you locate and get the permission of family before anyone can be disinterred and moved. This now adds to the cost. You have to do the genealogy of all the people (and) locate family, if any exists. Many families have simply died out and families will never be found. So many communities are left fighting in the courts trying to get approval to raze these buildings that are in deplorable condition.

“The absolute biggest problem the Beecher Mausoleum and most all mausoleums that are not currently embraced by their communities (is that) those communities that have done the right thing and stepped up to the plate and are taking care of their ancestors, is the lack of funding. There are no grants of any kind for ‘brick and mortar grants’ to repair or maintain these buildings, not at the local, county level, not at the state level, nor at the federal level. There are just simply no funds anywhere, not for mausoleums in need, nor for cemeteries that have been vandalized–like what just happened to the church cemetery in Monee this past year (when dozens of grave markers and headstones were seriously damaged).

“There are townships in our state that have done the right thing and they have elected to add a small tax to the property tax bills in order to collect funds for cemetery care within their township.

“In Wauconda, Illinois the average tax bill for cemetery care is $3, a small amount, but in a few short years, they were able to collect enough funds to hire professional companies to repair or reset broken headstones in their abandoned cemeteries.

“I would like to see our county change and remember those who have come before us and do the right thing by taking care of their grave sites,” Thielman added.

“How we get there from here, I currently don’t know. I do have a few ideas and I know I have a long hard fight in front of me. I am currently in the process of joining forces with other regional Historic Preservationists and we are going to try and find a way to help those in need or to change some laws.”

Some 200 people have been entombed in the Beecher Mausoleum, constructed of fine Bedford stone, with white interior walls and priceless stained glass windows created by Louis Comfort Tiffany.The mausoleum was seriously vandalized in 1937, and the windows were destroyed. The Mausoleum Association will pay $100 for photos or images of the building showing the windows before they were damaged.

The Beecher Mausoleum Guardian Angel Association was formed in 1996 for the purpose of caring for and restoring the Beecher Mausoleum. In 1998, a not-for-profit organization status was granted by the state. In 1999, Will County Historic Preservation Commission approved Will County Landmark status.

Its mission and goals are “to preserve, protect and restore wherever possible the beauty, elegance, durability, strength and sacredness of purpose, as was stated in the Beecher Herald, October 25, 1912, to the mausoleum (and) to return the mausoleum to a useful structure and to once again serve the community it was original built for.

“To preserve the peaceful, sacred setting for all visitors who come to pay respects.

Solicitation of donations. To create a web-site to inform and educate the public and inform the families and descendants of those interred in the mausoleum of our continuing efforts and to give them an opportunity to connect with their history.”

The objectives of the Beecher Mausoleum Assoc. include, but are not limited to, the following: Preservation, beautification and enhancement of the mausoleum. Creating a long-range plan for the mausoleum. To re-form the board of directors, according to the State of Illinois laws, and to return the mausoleum to an operating condition so that it may once again serve the community as it was originally intended.”

Current association board members are: Sandra Lee Thielman, president; Bob Howard, Washington Township supervisor; Paul Lohmann, Village of Beecher president; John Dean, Hack Funeral Home; Lance Saller, Bahlman Oil; and Donald Bahlman, architect.

More information about the Beecher Mausoleum and the Guardian Angels Association can be found on Facebook, or contact Sandra Lee Thielman at: Sandra@beechermausoleum.org; Beecher Mausoleum Association, Guardian Angel Restoration Project, a Will County Historic Landmark, a 501c3 Not-for-Profit Organization; (815) 788-9710 or (815) 728-8318;

mailing address: 7416 Algonquin Road, Wonder Lake, IL 60097.

National Register Application (click the link to read our National Register Application)

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Board Seeks Help Restoring 100-Year-Old Beecher Mausoleum

November 8, 2012 – Beecher Herald

THE HANDSOME BEDFORD STONE Beecher Mausoleum was formally designated a Will County Historic Landmark in 1998. Vandalism has damaged the once-pristine white marble interior, and the original Louis Comfort Tiffany-crafted stained glass windows are no longer there. But a new group of “guardian angels” are looking to restore the building. Monetary donations and volunteers to help clean and repair the interior are needed.

11-11-2012 Board Seeks Help Restoring 100-Year-Old Beecher MausoleumA century-old mausoleum in Beecher is about to get a new life, thanks to a handful of residents who recognize its place in the history of Eastern Will County.

The Will County Historical Preservation Commission and the Will County Board officially designated the stately Bedford stone and white-marble building a Will County Historic Landmark on March 19, 1998.

Researching the history of the Beecher Mausoleum, along with trying to learn about the lives of those entombed within it, is a fascinating project that can take history buffs back to the early part of the twentieth century when Beecher was bustling with new residents. Gould and Reed Streets then were little more than dirt roads filled with horse-drawn buggies. Passenger trains stopped at the Beecher depot every day to pick up passengers and deliver the mail.

It is easy to get lost in those times and wonder what really happened when some village forefathers, such as Henry Thielman and Arthur Struve (Beecher’s banker), acted on the community’s vision to offer an alternative to in-ground graves that provided a clean, dry, dignified place in which to pay respects to loved ones who had passed on. Like many other communities in that era, they set out to build the strongest, most enduring structure of its time.

Sadly, not all of the mausoleum’s history has been positive. In fact, in its more recent past, not only have there been incidents that have severely damaged the building itself, but scandalous rumors have demoralized the very story of the once-proud, reverent undertaking.

Beecher historians are looking to put some of those rumors to rest.

Here’s what they have to say.

Ownership

It has long been believed that the mausoleum was owned by a woman in Chicago Heights, who was a descendent of Arthur Struve.

Such stories have even been perpetuated through newspaper articles, including The Beecher Herald in 1994 when it was written, “The mausoleum was passed down to Arthur Struve’s daughter after his death and is presently said to be under the care of his granddaughter of the Chicago Heights area…”

The long-held notion that the mausoleum was owned by Struve’s granddaughter, Peggy Orr, is untrue.

The Beecher Mausoleum was initially governed by a board of directors in accordance with the 1903 Cemetery Care Act.

On April 3, 1914, the original cemetery association elected the following officers and trustees to manage the building: Henry B. Ruge, Charles Beseke, Chris. B Eskilson, Charles Hack, Frank Hunte, Arthur Struve and Tom Fick. Four of the men served three-year terms and three served six-year terms. C.B. Eskilson was elected president, Charles Hack, vice president, and Frank Hunte, secretary-treasurer.

Unfortunately, new members were never appointed to replace original members who passed away. The circumstances surrounding subsequent board members remains unclear.

Arthur Struve’s daughter, Rosamunda Orr, repaired and maintained the mausoleum for decades, often utilizing craftsmen from Orr Construction, the family business. Rosamunda’s daughter, Peggy Orr, continued to take care of the building when her aging mother could no longer do it.

Both Rosamunda and Peggy used their own money to make repairs and to pay for lawn maintenance. Peggy Orr’s personal letters from the 1980s document her frustration over caring for the building and repairing what vandals did without help from anyone and with no end in sight. She took care of the building out of the goodness of her heart and the sense of pride she inherited from her grandfather. She didn’t own the mausoleum, but she maintained it to the best of her ability for as long as she could. Ultimately, the task became too great for her.

It was widely believed that Peggy Orr owned the mausoleum, but that wasn’t the case.

Vandalism

One of the saddest chapters in the mausoleum’s history was caused by the damage both inside and outside of the building. Vandals broke into the building on several occasions over a 10-year period. Marble slabs that bore the names of the deceased were smashed. Small fires lit inside the building scorched and stained marble floors and ledges. The entire structure was littered with broken glass bottles and graffiti. The glass block windows, which had replaced the original stained-glass, were riddled with bullets and were broken time and time again.

Initial Funding

When the initial management of the mausoleum was established, funds from the sale of crypts were collected for care and maintenance of the building. Some of the other mausoleums built during the same time period by the same builder, Cecil Bryan, who is credited with building more than 80 mausoleums across the country, have funds remaining. Others do not. Some of the other mausoleums are in great shape. Others have been left to decay without care.

It is unclear what happened to the money initially set aside for maintenance. It apparently ran out during the 1960s. Whether it was the result of investments lost when the stock market crashed in 1929, or simply was spent on costly repairs following the vandalism, remains unknown.

It is noteworthy to add however, that there is a vast difference between the dollar value today and that of the early 1900s. Trying to predict the financial future by setting aside funds would likely fall far short at today’s high costs. For example, it is estimated that $500 in 1914 would have the buying power today of about $11,000. By today’s standards, that amount of cash would not go far.

Despite the many colorful chapters in the mausoleum’s history, the fact remains that the building has stood for almost a century. Historians, and a new board of directors, feel there is no reason to believe it cannot stand for another century, given the proper care.

The new board of the Beecher Mausoleum Guardian Angel Association, seated this summer, includes Sandra Lee Thielman, president; Washington Township Supervisor Bob Howard; Beecher Village President Paul Lohmann; John Dean, of Hack Funeral Home; Lance Saller, of Bahlman Oil; and Donald Bahlman, architect.

“I believe the mausoleum can again make a positive impact on the community,” said Thielman.

“With a little care, and if the community bands together, Beecher’s Mausoleum can be properly repaired and restored so it can once again serve the community for which it was built.”

“We welcome participation by any other concerned or interested persons,” Thielman noted.

“As you may be aware, the Beecher Mausoleum now has a website (http://www.beechermausoleum.org) and a Facebook page. We are trying to spread the word about the history of the building and the people interred there. We would like to re-construct a perpetual board and a perpetual care fund.”

Through the efforts of Sandra Thielman and Bob Howard, the Roofers Union/Local #11, the Carpenters Union/ Local #434 and the Bricklayers Union/Local 21 have all agree to do the necessary repair labor to replace the roof and the stone scuppers/drain spouts. With the assistance of the unions, the expense of the needed repair materials will be minimal.

Thielman said it will be necessary to solicit donations from larger organizations, including philanthropic and fraternal organizations, along with community support such as fundraisers and raffles.

“Washington Township and the Village of Beecher are not the only communities we will approach with our plea for support,” she added.

“The Village of Crete has a strong connection to the mausoleum, since prominent citizens and veterans of other communities, including some in Indiana, rest eternally within the walls of the Beecher Mausoleum.

“Beecher’s Mausoleum has survived for 100 years thanks to the love and care of two good souls and perhaps a handful of anonymous good samaritans,” said Thielman, a member of the Beecher Mausoleum Guardian Angel Association. “I have worked to restore the building’s dignity since 1996, when I saw it at its worst.

“This structure is a time-line, a history book carved in marble, a family tree linked not just to those buried inside but to thousands of families directly and indirectly connected to it. It’s a building with a story that must be told, accurately and with dignity,” she added.

“That is our mission.”

When built, Beecher Mausoleum included 210 crypts total, 170 isle crypts and four family compartments of 10 crypts each. Isle crypts sold for $200-$300, family compartments were purchased for $1,500.

In 2012, there are 29 isle crypts and 26 salable crypts. There also are 17 family compartment crypts unoccupied.

Currently, 171 people are entombed in the Mausoleum, representing 65 family surnames.

Beecher Masuoleum Now Online

Newspaper Article –  Beecher Herald – Staff Reporter

July 26, 2012 

The name “Bahlman” is a familiar name in and around Beecher: who doesn’t know Bahlman’s Auto Service and Tire Repair, on the corner of Penfield Street and Dixie Highway? Who knew that business began in 1921, started by Charles Bahlman? Or, that his older brother Henry F. Bahlman was the first Washington Township resident to run for countywide office in 1914.

Donald Bahlman, an architect in Virginia Beach, VA, is Henry Bahlman’s grandson. He is learning some of the facts about his family by visiting a new web site – http://beechermausoleum.org. Several of Don’s family members are interred in the Beecher Mausoleum.

Don was surprised to find the newly-created web site, literally hours after it became live. Coincidentally, he had been looking into his family’s history when he ran across the site.

“Although the web site is about the community at large, it did feel a little like it was ‘my’ family history on the internet when I first saw it. And immediately, I wanted to see more,” he said.

With an appetite for more information about his own family tree, he immediately contacted Sandra Thielman, the site’s webmaster.

Thielman, whose efforts to restore, repair, and preserve the mausoleum date back to the 1990s, has many of her own family members interred in the mausoleum.

“I really like genealogy and family history, and I know someone out there has old photographs and stories I’d like to see and hear,” Don told her. “I may have photos and stories that will interest others, as well. I’d like to see the web site filled with as much information that’s manageable so people, today, can better understand who those souls in the mausoleum were in life.”

His comment was exactly the point, according to Thielman. It is why she created the web site. During her extensive research in trying to locate the families of the souls entombed in the building, she learned much, but it isn’t enough. She would like to verify information with families for accuracy, as well as to enhance the site itself.

While the web site centers on the mausoleum, it also will include a history of the people buried there, painting a picture of life of early Beecher and Washington Township.

The Beecher Mausoleum, built in 1913, was designed to provide a clean, practical burial place as an alternative to open graves.

Thielman wants to establish a new Beecher Mausoleum Association this summer to oversee the care of the building. A previous organization has not been active since the late 1960s. The last board members, elected in 1933, have since passed on.

With a need for restoration and repairs of the building, a not-for-profit corporation to oversee the perpetual care of the building has been established.

“The time has come for a more permanent organization to not only preserve the mausoleum’s past,” said Thielman, “but to protect its future as well as the souls that rest eternally within.”

The web site, a work in progress, contains a comprehensive list of each of the persons buried in the building, with a photo of their head stone. Every effort is being made to provide a copy of the original obituary, along with as much pertinent information as possible about each person.

For more information, contact Sandra Thielman at (815) 788-9710 or email her at sandra@beechermausoleum.org

Restoring respect

June 18, 2008 Northwest Herald

 

—Leslie Rohrer of Wauconda Historical Cemetery Association looks over a restored gravesite at the cemetery.

Cemetery Restoration Nears End

Work is wrapping up this week on the restoration of about 300 monuments in the historic portion of Wauconda Cemetery.

Many graves date back to the 1800s.

The work is being overseen by the Wauconda Township Historic Cemetery Association, formed in 1990 to restore old cemeteries in the township. The association began restoration work on the Wauconda Cemetery in July.

The association hired National Stone Inc. of Lake Bluff to remount monuments and reset settled bases and fallen stones.

The association budget this year is $17,000 which included repairs at Wauconda Cemetery and upkeep at two other cemeteries in the townships, Fisher and Volo.

“The work costs the average property owner in Wauconda Township $3 a year,” Township Clerk Gerald Beyer said.

Wauconda Cemetery pdf

—click on the article in blue to open PDF file

Editor’s note:

Do you think this should be done in the Washington Township? Do you think the property owners of Washington Township would support a small property tax to make the much needed repairs to the local cemeteries and mausoleum?

Please give us your thoughts. Please post your replies below.

Future of Will County Landmark in doubt

January 9, 2005 The Star

Newspaper Article by Jennifer Golz

Eternity may be relative when it comes to the fate of those who are laid to rest in the Beecher Mausoleum.

The Will County historic landmark, on Cemetery Road east of Dixie Highway, has been brought back from its near state of disrepair by a woman whose family history dates back to the mausoleum’s inception.

But, she said, without the help of the community, the building will once again fall by the wayside, causing concern for the future of the 171 occupied crypts.

A special meeting to discuss the future of the mausoleum is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the Washington Township Center, 301 E. Indiana Ave.

“It was a beautiful, grand, regal structure with white marble interior and Bedford stone exterior with stained glass windows,“ Sandra Lee Thielman said.

Thielman is a descendant of six people who are laid to rest in the Beecher Mausoleum, including her grandparents, her great-grandfather was one of the founders of the Beecher Mausoleum Construction Co., which fashioned the building after a similar mausoleum in Crown Point, Ind.

According to the Will County Historic Preservation Commission, the building was completed in 1913.

Thielman said it was once a place that she was proud to have her past associated with. But after her family moved to northern Illinois, she had not visited the site for many years and was shocked to see the damage that was done by vandals.

“I was truly horrified,” she said after seeing the mausoleum in 1997.

“I could not believe the state of the building, with the bonfires, garbage, and graffiti. It was used for a party place for years.”

Thielman said initially she wanted to take her relatives out of the mausoleum, but instead decided to start a letter writing campaign “to save it.”

She sent more than 600 packets of information in a plea for help across the country, securing $16,000 for cleanup and repair of the building.

Thielman, who lives near the Wisconsin boarder, has made countless trips to the mausoleum to acid wash the exterior of the building to restore its original color. She scraped and repainted the interior ceiling, cleaned up the landscape, hired a professional tuck pointer and made artificial marble slabs to replace those that were broken on the crypts.

“in 2001, it was an embarrassment to know my grandmother is buried there,” Thielman said. “But God gave me the skills, time and ability and in four years I got it done.”

Along the way, Thielman secured Landmark status for the mausoleum to ensure there would be no changes to the original architecture and design. It also ensures the mausoleum cannot be demolished without court action.

But over the years, the mausoleum has continued to slowly deteriorate without the constant upkeep that the 92-year-old landmark requires.

Thielman said there are many more things that need to be replaced such as some interior marble and stained glass windows. However, they are costly and there are no funds or a local committee to watch over the building.

Thielman said the crypts originally were sold for approximately $200 each, with the understanding that $5 would be set aside for perpetual care. She said through her research she only has found one family that donated $5000 to the perpetual care account.

“I Have carried the burden since 1997 and I cannot carry it alone anymore,” Thielman said.

She said in a worse-case scenario, the mausoleum would fall to such a state of disrepair, the county would demolish the building, but before doing so, descendants would have to be notified, the crypts would have to be opened and the remains would have to be buried elsewhere.

Thielman said she estimates the cost to be “Somewhere between $4,000 to $7,000 per person… and we have 171 people in the building. “

The mausoleum sits outside the village limits of Beecher, in Washington Township, and is not affiliated with any one church.

Thielman approached Beecher Mayor Paul Lohmann, asking him for help in a efforts to ignite the community’s concern.

“I want to get cooperation from various churches and township people to set up a funding source and set up a commission or board to govern it, to make sure the never happens again,” Lohmann said.

“It’s not in the village limits, but I will try to get pastors and chairmen of different churches to have parishioners that are laid to rest there, and get the county and township board members to see what we can do to resolve this issue.” Lohmann said.

Washington Township supervisor Nelson Collins said that while the mausoleum is within the township’s borders, it is not the governing body that is responsible for the building.

“If they did accept the responsibility, there would need to be some funding and that can only be done by referendum, and I don’t know how willing the voters would be to maintain a mausoleum,” Collins said.

However, Collins said he is looking forward to Monday’s meeting and learning more about the mausoleum’s history.

“I don’t think the majority of people are aware of it,” He said. “Maybe out of this whole thing, people will be educated that it exists and has landmark status.”

Grave matter – Women works to preserve historic Beecher Mausoleum

December 31, 2004 The Sunday Journal

by Nancy Ghiotto


WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP – Once a stately final resting place, the Beecher Mausoleum has since become an abused and deteriorating landmark, – something one woman is fighting to fix.

Sandra Thielman, of Wonder Lake, is working to preserve the burial building from becoming an eyesore and continues to seek volunteers to help with the project.

When on walks through the doorway of the mausoleum, there is a sense of peace and history of whose who buried within the walls of the building. The marble floors, walls of the interior and the ornate cement and stone exterior represent the care ancestor’s took to honor their deceased loved ones and the expense they made to accomplish that goal.

Thielman, herself, has numerous ancestors buried in crypts at the site. Many prominent early citizens of Beecher are there as well.

The construction of the Beecher Mausoleum, a 150-foot-long by 50-foot-wide structure, began in 1912 and was completed in 1913. It was declared a historic landmark in 1998 by the Will County Historic Preservation Commission. The mausoleum is near St. Luke’s Cemetery on the southeast edge of Beecher in unincorporated Washington Township and east of Route 1. Though the mausoleum is adjacent to the cemetery, it’s not affiliated with any church, said Ms. Thielman.

Her quest to preserve the landmark began about seven years ago, after she and her daughter, Christina, went there. She learned that her great-grandfather, Henry Thielman, was responsible for having the historic landmark built.

Henry was a real estate developer who became a resident of Beecher in 1899. Local banker Arthur Struve financed construction of the building and took over management of the mausoleum after Thielman moved to Arkansas.

Struve passed away in 1932, leaving the duties of selling crypts to his daughter, Rosamunda Orr. When she could no longer do the job, she appointed her daughter, Peggy Orr, to take over.

Henry Thielman died in 1947 and was buried at the mausoleum his vision helped create. His wife, Minnie, and nephew, Loren, are also buried there. Sandra’s mother, Dollie Joanne (who died in 1968) is buried at the site as well, along with Thielman’s fraternal grandparents, Walter and Paula.

Ms. Thielman remembers visiting the mausoleum as a child with her grandmother, Paula. Those visits stopped when she later moved to the northern suburbs. Today she lives in Wonder Lake near the Wisconsin border.

Before her grandmother’s death in 2001, she had been working at cleaning up the mausoleum – a long and expensive process.

Funds have been limited and often she would pay some of the expenses herself. She has also spent countless hours researching the historic landmark.

There were no funds for taking perpetual care of the mausoleum,” said Ms. Thielman.

She hopes to continue to investigate the family histories of those buried there.

Ms. Thielman gives credit to local historian, Virginia Bath, who has supplied old newspaper articles containing Beecher’s past history to help locate information on those buried at the site.

As more community members learn about the plight of the historic mausoleum, Ms. Thielman hopes to be able to find out even more about its occupants. One women turns out to be a servant and a past resident of the Kankakee Mental Hospital.

Thielman said it was not uncommon during the 1930’s and ‘40s that those with no money or families were buried at the mausoleum.

“The research on the families has been slow in coming. It would be great to have local people help with the missing information. The bigger the family, the easier it is to do research on the families related to those buried in the mausoleum,” she said of the 171 people entombed there.

Over time, she as a small group of volunteers have raised $16,000 for materials and repairs for the old building, but the damage has been costly.

Today, the repairs fund contains less than $3,000.

In the past, vandals have destroyed or damaged much of the inside of the mausoleum. There have been liquor bottles and cigarette burn marks found inside the burial crypt. Beautiful stained glass windows that once adorned the building have now been replaced with glass block. There has been extensive damage to the marble floors and walls from fires set by vandals.

But despite this, some progress has been made.

The building has been power washed, (since there is no water at the mausoleum site it was brought in from the Beseke farm which is close to the burial site), windows have been secured,, the ceiling repainted. Tuck pointing has been done and broken marble panels replaced with wood. The list of restoration needs continues to grow, including repairs for the leaking roof and flashing around the drains.

“The mausoleum was designed and built by some of Beecher’s past citizens. It’s important to keep the structure intact,” said Ms. Thielman.

Grave Matter – Wayne Wiechen, Paul LohmannBeecher resident Wayne Wiechen has helped in the past with maintaining the outside of the mausoleum. For six years he cut the grass and trimmed bushes that surrounded the building.

Often he and his wife, Charlene, would plant flowers in the urns that are on opposite ends in the front of the mausoleum. “We both have relatives who are buried in the mausoleum and in respect of them and the others buried there, we felt it was the right thing to do,” said Wiechen.

Village President Paul Lohmann would like to see a perpetual foundation set up for the maintenance and care of the historic landmark.

“The building is too much of an asset to our community to let it go. We should try to help to maintain it in the proper way,” he said.

A meeting to discuss the future restoration plans will be held at 7 p.m., Jan. 10, 2004, at Washington Township Center, 301 East Indiana Ave., Beecher

Lohmann Offers Help With Mausoleum Care

November 25, 2004 Beecher Herald

by Carol Henrichs

Village President Paul Lohmann has given hope to a women who was about at her wit’s end.

Lohmann, who has already proven himself an advocate of Beecher’s proud past as well as its promising future, is now taking on a new project.

He has offered to help Sandra Thielman with the Beecher Mausoleum project.

Sandra’s great-grandfather Henry Thielman is credited with building the historic Beecher Mausoleum, a significant undertaking in its day that stands today as a landmark structure, thanks largely to her efforts.

She is likely cut from a similar cloth as Henry Thielman, who was a real estate developer and considered one of the prominent early citizens of Beecher.

Thielman was the vice-president of the German-American Land Company that had offices in Chicago and Arkansas. He came to live in Beecher in 1899.

Sandra has built her own successful steel company AMS Resources Inc. in Crystal Lake.

At about the same time Sandra took on the restoration of the mausoleum through her reverence of the past, the beauty of the building, and the familial bond she shares with her ancestors.

Sandra took on the maintenance with an eye toward complete restoration of the mausoleum about six years ago as a result of a promise to her 97-year old grandmother, Paula.

It was Paula’s desire to be buried in the Beecher Mausoleum, next to her husband Walter, Henry’s son, and their son Loren, who died in a plane crash.

Sandra’s mother Dolly is also buried there, as is Henry’s wife Minnie.

It was Paula’s wish that first brought Sandra to Beecher. She visited the mausoleum about severak years ago for the first time. She was appalled at what she saw.

The neglected building had been vandalized and in a total state of disrepair. It was so different from the place she considered sacred when she was a child. Her family brought her there many times to pay their respects to deceased family members.

Sandra, who lives in Wonder Lake, not far from the Wisconsin border, has traveled often on weekends to work on the mausoleum.

It was not uncommon to see her atop the building, patching the roof and windows, cleaning the exterior with caustic chemicals, or repairing old marble slabs inside.

She took on the responsibility, largely by herself, of researching the ancestors of those entombed inside. She asked many of the for help. She raised enough money to at least secure the building and do some needed repairs.

Sandra came back recently, just to check on the mausoleum.

She found that the roof had been leaking a little. It caused some damage.

She realized that she could no longer drive two hours each way just to check for leaks.

So she returned the following weekend, with her nephew Justin Broerjtes. The two of them repaired the leak in the roof.

But, she realized that without help, she couldn’t continue.

There is so much more that needs to be done. The place has so many possibilities.

A similar mausoleum exists in west suburban Elmhurst. It has been completely restored and is being used for burials and stores urns containing ashes.

Sandra believes Beecher’s mausoleum could become viable again with a little help; it is not full. There is still plenty of room inside.

“It could even earn its keep” she said.

Sandra envisions a chapel inside, as the final gathering place for family members, as it once was.

She was so excited when Lohmann offered to help.

Lohmann played a huge role in the Depot Restoration Project. Lohmann had plenty to do with the completion of that project. What he didn’t do himself, he got others to accomplish. And, he is becoming a wizard at getting folks to participate, donate, and generally help when needed.

Lohmann thought he would call together a summit meeting of sorts, bringing in township officials and various churches. He said there should be something they can do to pitch in to take care of the building where many of Beecher’s early citizens are laid to rest.

He asked the village board members at a recent meeting if they had any objections to his trying to get something to happen for the mausoleum.

They told him to “go for it”

PAULA M. THIELMAN

Paula M. Thielman

Age: 97 years, 7 months, 13 days

PAULA MARGUERITE THIELMAN
(nee KUHLMANN)

DOB: November 25, 1903
Melrose Park, IL USA

DOD: July 8, 2001
Arlington Heights, IL USA

 

Daughter of Ernst Henry and Emma Katharina (nee Holtzen) Kuhlmann

standing XXX, Lorna, XXX, XXX, Caroline, Esther, XXX, Sitting Paula, Hilda, Norma, Emma L., Ernst, Erna, Rose Kuhlman, standing men are Alwin W., Ernst H., Edgar H., Edwin M. order uncertian @ 1935

Standing: XXX, Lorna, XXX, XXX, Caroline, Esther, XXX.   Sitting: Paula, Hilda, Norma, Emma L., Ernst, Erna and Rose Kuhlman.   The standing men are Alwin W., Ernst H., Edgar H., Edwin M. in unknown order, circa 1935.  Can you help us identify the standing brothers? Note: one brother, Ewald, is not in the photo as he died in 1929.

Sister to: Erna Anna (Franklin E. Harnisch), Lorna Anne (Fred H. Wilkening), Ewald, Rosa Marie (William W. Voigts), Hilda Mathilda Kuhlmann

Half sister to: Alwin W. (Louise Kozlowski) , Ernst, Edgar (Mabel I. Miller), Edwin (Mardell Leonard), Esther (William H. Hofeling), Ella Caroline (Laverne H. Decker),  Norma (Elsworth Langellier) and Flora E. Kuhlmann


Mrs. Paula Thielman

 

Wife of Walter Louis Thielman

Married October 11, 1924

Mother to: Loren Walter and Leslie Ralph Thielman

Grandmother to: Sherry Lynn, Sandra Lee and Walter Scott Thielman

 

 


 

PAULA MARGUERITE THIELMAN 

Services were held Thursday, July 12, for Paula Kuhlmann Thielman of Arlington Heights, formerly of Park Forest and Chicago Heights at Hack Funeral Home. Mrs. Thielman died July 8, 2001, at Northwestern Community Hospital in Arlington Heights.

The funeral will begin at noon. Entombment will be in the Beecher Mausoleum.

Paula was born November 25, 1903, in Melrose Park. She was a homemaker and sewing – quilting instructor.

Mrs. Thielman is survived by a son, Leslie (Carol) Thielman of Prospect Heights; three grandchildren, Sherry (Larry) Gianneschi of Windemere, FL; Sandra Thielman of Wonder Lake and Scott (Lorie) Thielman of Palatine; two step-grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.

She is preceded in death by her husband, Walter L Thielman; and a son Loren W. Thielman.

Other family members resting in the mausoleum are: 

Husband: Walter L. Thielman
Son: Loren Walter Thielman
Son & Daughter-in-law: Leslie R. Thielman & Dollie Joanne (Johnson) Thielman
Father & Mother-in-Law: Henry F. Thielman & Minnie (Bielfeldt) Thielman

Other, more distant family include: Bahlman, Batterman, Bergmeier, Beseke, Bielfeldt, Bohl, Cloidt, Dunlap, Engleking,  Fenske, Fick, Fiene, Freerking, Frobose, Graham, Guritz, Hack, Hager, Haltenhof , Heine, Heldt, Hildeman, Hinze, Hoffman, Hoppensteadt, Horn, Hunte, Kaczynski, Kappe, Kirchhoff,  Klocksieben, Koch, Langreder, Leder, Maass, Matthias, Mc Carty, Meyer, Monk, Niedert, Ohlendorf, Pansa, Peters, Pralle, Riley, Ristenpart, Rohe, Rust, Saller, Selk, Struve, Vagt, Von Engeln, Wegert, Wehmhoefer, Wiechen, Westphal, Wilkening,