Architecture students to study Beecher Mausoleum for class project

NWI.Com The Times

September 27, 2014 12:00 am • Gregory Tejeda Times Correspondent


BEECHER | Students of the University of Illinois architecture school will be in the village today to document the character of the Beecher Mausoleum as part of a class project. Associate professor Paul Kapp is bringing his Recording Historic Buildings class of senior undergraduates and graduate students to the mausoleum, which in recent months has been undergoing a restoration by the Beecher Guardian Angel Association. Kapp said in a letter to the association the students will measure the structure, while also producing architectural drawings, plans, elevations, sections and details of the mausoleum, which is in its centennial year of existence. It is a Will County historic landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The students’ work ultimately will be submitted for the Peterson Prize competition sponsored by the National Parks Service. The class also intends to present copies of their work to the association, which says the original drawings of the structure were lost years ago. Association President Sandra Thielman said officials there hope the students’ work can help them discover the exact location of a time capsule that supposedly is inside the building. Thielman said accounts published in the Beecher Herald newspaper in 1913 make reference to a historical vault.


That vault supposedly contains newspapers from the period when the mausoleum was built, along with a published history of Beecher and Washington townships in Will County, and other relics including arrows once belonging to Native American tribes from the area.

Oklahoma-time-capsule 1913 Oklahoma City Time Capsule 1913

Beecher Mausoleum to be measured & Architectural drawings made


August 21, 2014 The Beecher Herald

Once again, a historic spotlight will shine on the Beecher Mausoleum

Century Old Mausoleum

Century Old Mausoleum

University of Illinois – School of Architecture to come to Beecher

Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council Member Paul Kapp, who is also an associate professor of architecture and director of the historic preservation program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, plans to focus on the Beecher Mausoleum for his upcoming Fall architectural class—Recording Historic Buildings.

His class, for senior undergraduates and graduate students, measures, draws, and photographs historic buildings.

In a July 28th letter to Sandra Thielman, President of the Beecher Guardian Angel Association (BMGA), the group that is currently overseeing the mausoleum restoration project, Kapp explained that students will measure and produce architectural drawings, plans, elevations, sections, and details of the Beecher Mausoleum. He said they will also produce field notes, sketches of their measurements, a brief historic structures report, and a detailed selection of photographs. This work will require him and his students to hold field trip sessions at the building, typically from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays during September and October.

Once completed, the work will be submitted as an entry in a national competition sponsored by the National Park Service called the Peterson Prize.

When the work is completed, there will be an entire set of drawings and plans, a copy of which will be provided to the BMGA to use for reference. What a gift these will be to honor the Beecher Mausoleum’s centennial year. Any original drawings of the building have been lost from a century ago.

Thielman’s hope is that when the work is completed, perhaps some light could be shed on where the time capsule may be in the building, as referenced in a 1913 newspaper article.
The July 25, 1913 Beecher Herald stated, “A historical vault will be installed in the building, in which newspapers, including copies of the Eastern Will Union, Published here in 1879, and of the Beecher Herald will be filed away, also a history of Beecher and Washington township and a part of the county history will be deposited. Old relics such as Indian arrows or anything historical will be deposited bearing inscriptions descriptive of the article. The vault will be sealed and will not be opened for a period of years. One in an Indiana mausoleum was sealed and is not to be opened for 1000 years, but the extension of time here will not be as long as that.”

Kapp%20Headshot_1Kapp’s 2012 class submitted their work of the Illinois Supreme Court Building at 200 E. Capitol Ave., Springfield, in Sangamon County, where it won third place. The drawings and photographs for that project can be viewed at:

Thielman was thrilled when Kapp contacted her. “It is always a plus to receive recognition for this project,” she said, adding that this was a very worthwhile exercise. She was impressed by the work Kapp and his students did on the Illinois Supreme Court Building and said she would enjoy seeing information about the Beecher Mausoleum reside in the Library of Congress.

Beecher Mausoleum Celebrating Its Centennial

Beecher Mausoleum to celebrate centennial with a facelift, a party and theatrical presentations

July 17, 2014 – Beecher Herald – Staff Reporter 

Beecher Mausoleum will celebrate its 100th birthday anniversary this year with a makeover of the venerable structure this summer, along with a party and theatrical presentations depicting the lives of some of those entombed there.

Beecher Mausoleum Fall Festival 2014The Mausoleum, a Will County and National Historic Landmark, long has been in disrepair.

But thanks to a generous offer from the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, of Westchester; International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers; and Pointers, Cleaners, and Caulkers of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, based in Elmhurst, in conjunction with Landmarks Illinois, preparation of the building’s repair soon will begin.

Jack Tribbia, the president of Restoration Division of Berglund Construction Co. in Chicago, met with union representatives in Beecher this spring, as well as Berglund Logo 2965Cmembers of the Beecher Guardian Angel Association (BMGA), the group that is currently overseeing the mausoleum restoration project.

Tribbia prepared a detailed scope of work, aimed toward repairing the building’s walls and roof in order to once again seal the building to a watertight condition. Care will be taken to preserve historical elements of the building in this initial phase of the Beecher Mausoleum’s repair. The work is expected to be undertaken this summer to late fall. Once the work is completed, a final phased plan for the building’s full restoration will be developed.

 Landmarks Illinois, the state’s non-profit advocacy voice for historic preservation, included the Beecher Mausoleum as one of two historic mausoleums on its annual statewide endangered historic places list in 2013.


Meanwhile, plans are underway for a celebration to take place this fall.

According to Sandra Thielman, the driving force behind restoration of the mausoleum, the party will honor the Beecher Mausoleum’s centennial, and, at the same time, it will also serve to thank the volunteers and donors who have given time, effort, labor, and generosity to the project.

“Each of the souls inside the mausoleum once lived and thrived in the Beecher area,” Thielman noted.

“They deserve to be remembered, despite a dwindling number of living relatives who can regularly visit their final resting places. Yet, it was largely these people who were responsible for shaping current events, just as today’s living will influence the future.

“One way to honor the deceased is to tell some of the stories of their lives. Their stories depict a rich and vibrant history of not just the region, but a much younger America. Therefore, the Beecher Mausoleum Guardian Angels is looking for volunteer actors to perform skits and dress in period costumes for this celebratory event.”

Those interested in participating are asked to contact Sandra Thielman at or call her at 800-713-9710 daytime or 815-728-8318 evenings and weekends.

More information about these historic characters can be found on the Volunteering page

Beecher’s century-old mausoleum teetering on ruin

Beecher’s century-old mausoleum teetering on ruin

Vandalism, neglect have taken a toll on monument recently designated a national landmark

December 16, 2013 – by Angie Leventis Lourgos, Chicago Tribune


Joseph Cloidt survived the Civil War battles of Bull Run and Gettysburg, serving at one point as bodyguard to President Abraham Lincoln.

Arthur Hinze fought in Germany and France in World War I. And Raymond John Bielfeldt died of tuberculosis contracted during the same war, but wrote home earlier in his service: “I do not regret that I have joined the seamanship of the U.S. Navy, and may God help me.”

Today, the final resting place of these quiet heroes is falling into ruin.

The Beecher Mausoleum, about 40 miles south of downtown Chicago, was named a national landmark in September, despite its eroding Bedford limestone veneer, its sepulchers desecrated by vandalism and neglect. The century-old site is listed by preservationists as one of the most threatened historic places in Illinois because of the complicated management and ownership laws governing many of these aboveground tombs that dot the state.

The great-granddaughter of one of the Beecher Mausoleum founders is now struggling to restore the monument to preserve its local lore as well as the memory of the 173 veterans and civilians in its crypts. And she’s working with state preservationists to help other mausoleums in disrepair across Illinois.

HARRISBURG – SUNSET MAUSOLEUMBodies have already been removed at the crumbling Sunset Lawn Mausoleum in Harrisburg in southern Illinois and the all-but-abandoned Fernwood Mausoleum in Roodhouse, southwest of Springfield. Previous owners of American Mausoleum in Peoria filed for bankruptcy and left the structure damaged and leaking five years ago, until the county state’s attorney’s office took over control and made repairs.

“These mausoleums are time capsules of history,” said Sandra Lee Thielman, 57, of Wonder Lake, on a recent Saturday as she and relatives worked on the roof, swept the floor and decorated a Christmas tree in the Beecher Mausoleum. “This is the history of our communities.”

‘Who is in charge?’

When Thielman was a little girl, her family each Sunday would pay their respects at the Beecher Mausoleum where her grandfather, mother and other relatives were laid to rest. She returned as an adult in the mid-1990s to find the hallowed grounds of her ancestors turned into a local teen party spot.

1.doors unlocked and opened13.Horm Compartment “I literally went to my knees,” she said. “I could not believe the vandalism and destruction that I was seeing.”

The gleaming marble floors were covered with empty beer bottles and scorch marks from bonfires. Vandals had torn off marble headstones. Initials and drawings were scraped into the front doors. Bullet holes patterned the exterior wall, presumably from rifle target practice.

The mausoleum was once the pride of the town.

“The building will be so constructed that it will be nondestructible and will be everlasting,” boasted the Beecher Herald in 1913, with later stories recounting the arrival of stained glass windows and completion of the marble setting.

Five hundred people attended the June 1914 dedication ceremony just outside the village for the 100-by-50-foot building, co-founded by local real estate speculator Henry Thielman.

It was one of hundreds of community mausoleums popping up across the country in the early 20th century. They were called grand “houses of the dead,” likened to the pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

“The community mausoleum gives for our dead what our hearts crave for them, the symbol and promise at least of eternity,” reads a company brochure from Cecil E. Bryan, famed architect of the Beecher Mausoleum and some 80 others in Illinois and throughout the U.S.

The buildings featured a newly patented ventilation system that kept the site sanitary and odorless. The deceased would remain protected from soil and worms, rain and snow. The community mausoleum was designed to promote a more egalitarian eternity. In ancient cultures, only the wealthy were preserved in opulent aboveground tombs, with paupers and commoners resigned to anonymity in mass graves. The newfangled mausoleum was affordable to the masses.

At Beecher, the $200 or $300 crypt subscription was cheaper than many cemetery plots. School chiefs, town mayors and military leaders lay alongside humble farmers, common folk and a patient from the Kankakee mental hospital.

Most cemeteries and some mausoleums are owned by corporations, government agencies or religious institutions. But Beecher and many other community mausoleums of the time were run by a board of trustees, with a small per-crypt fee designed to cover long-term building maintenance.

These pools of money eventually dried up. The board governing the mausoleum would fall apart after the last trustee was laid to rest inside, leaving the privately owned structures in a legal purgatory of sorts.

“The question now is: ‘Who is responsible for the building?’” the Beecher Herald asked readers in 1988. “Does anyone know if there is a fund set up for maintenance, and if so, who is in charge?”

Preserving history

Don Bahlman, of Virginia Beach, Va., had traveled a few times to visit that little building tucked away on a private gravel road in the middle of the Illinois countryside.

The father he never knew was inside.

Donald Bahlman, a World War II veteran, had died of cancer when his wife was pregnant with his namesake son. The younger Bahlman was deeply hurt that his father’s mausoleum had been vandalized.

“That, to me, was like a personal violation,” he said.

About two years ago, he contacted Thielman, through her website,, she’d spent nearly two decades fixing up the site and collecting historical records of the departed, traveling some 100 miles from her McHenry County home. Thielman put together a new board to govern the mausoleum, and Bahlman, an architect, joined.

Thielman now knows the names and stories of many buried there. A toddler died of an accidental gunshot wound. A woman took her own life and in the suicide note requested burial in the mausoleum for privacy from gawkers.

And Bahlman even learned a family secret: His grandfather, a pillar of a local church, had been busted by federal agents during Prohibition for making whiskey in the basement.

The Ten Most Endangered Historic Places of 2013 photo page.res.200The Beecher Mausoleum was named to the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 18. This came just months after it was declared one of the Ten Most Endangered Historic Places by Landmarks Illinois, which also included the failing Fernwood Mausoleum downstate.

Thielman said restoring the mausoleum will cost tens of thousands of dollars but didn’t have a specific estimate, saying it might vary based on volunteer labor.

Bonnie McDonald, president of Landmarks Illinois, plans to begin surveying damage at mausoleums across the state. She and Thielman hope to bring legislation before the General Assembly next year requiring that state or local government care for these aging burial sites.

They say restoration would be cheaper than removing and burying bodies if a mausoleum falls apart. Community mausoleums have been razed in Waukegan, Rockford, Decatur and other Illinois cities, according to Thielman.

“These are truly vessels for people who cared for our communities in the past,” McDonald said. “We can live up to our responsibility to those who came before us.”

To Thielman, saving the Beecher Mausoleum is tantamount to preserving her own eternity.

“I plan to be buried in here with my mother,” she said, running her hands along the crypts in her family section. “But I need to secure a permanent, perpetual care.”

Beecher Masuoleum Listed on National Register

November 7, 2013 Beecher Herald

Prestige is good, but does little to solve problem

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places Sept. 18, 2013

The Beecher Mausoleum, at the junction of Route 1 and Horner Lane in unincorporated Washington Township, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as of September 18, 2013. It is now acknowledged by local, state, and federal agencies.

11-07-2013 Beecher Mausoleum Listed on National RegisterRecognition by the United States Dept. of the Interior’s National Parks Service deems the 100-year old structure worthy of preservation. The Beecher Mausoleum is an example of a historic trend in the early 20th century to provide an option to in-ground burials. The building embodies distinctive characteristics of that period with its limestone and marble construction. In addition, this neo-classical structure, completed in 1913-1914, is an example of other similar works by Cecil Bryan, an architect who is well known for building approximately 80 mausoleums across the country.

The Ten Most Endangered Historic Places of 2013 photo page.resizedThe State of Illinois is well-acquainted with the Beecher Mausoleum. State preservationists were responsible for submission of the nomination for designation on the National Register. Also, in April of this year, Landmarks Illinois recognized the Beecher Mausoleum by placing it on its list of ‘ten most endangered historic places.’

Will County recognized the Beecher Mausoleum in 1998 when the building was named a Will County historic landmark.

While these accolades are a source of pride for the community as well as those who have taken an active interest in this symbol of Washington Township’s history, there is much more work to be done. There remains a need for funding for maintenance and perpetual care of the building.

None of it would have been possible without the tireless efforts of Sandra Lee Thielman and the Beecher Mausoleum Guardian Angel Association board she helped create.

Sandra Thielman is the great granddaughter of Henry Thielman, an early community member often credited with spearheading the effort to build the mausoleum. He and his wife Minnie, along with their son, Walter are buried inside the mausoleum, as is Sandra’s mother Dolly.

Sandra remembered how as a young child, her family would travel to Beecher to visit her relatives’ burial place. It was her grandmother Paula’s desire to be buried in the Beecher Mausoleum, near her husband Walter, and son Loren, that first brought Sandra Thielman back to the place she remembered. When she returned in 1996 she was appalled at the condition of the once-regal structure, thus sparking a whirlwind of managing, organizing, and fundraising activities.

Before Sandra would consider burying her grandmother there, she wanted to clean and spruce up the place. She took it upon herself to acid-wash the exterior, clean and paint the ceiling inside, and patch holes in the roof as best she could. With much of her own money, she hired people to help. When Paula Thielman died, Sandra honored her wishes. The last to be buried in the Beecher Mausoleum, Paula was laid to rest in 2001.

Of course Thielman has a deep, personal connection to the Beecher Mausoleum, but for her it isn’t just a burial place for her family members. While many people visit the graves of their loved ones, they don’t normally devote 17 years of their lives or spend thousands of dollars of their own money to protect not only their own heritage but that of an entire community.

Sandra has spent countless hours researching the genealogy of those entombed there, evident in the legion of pages she has compiled on the mausoleum’s website at: Through her research, she has learned some of the stories of the people interred in the mausoleum—people who inhabited the Beecher area during its early years. The stories paint a picture of Beecher, Washington Township, and eastern Will County that Thielman is happy to share with anyone and everyone who wants to hear them. Though she has never lived in Beecher herself, she recognizes and reveres her deep roots there and her intrinsic connection to the community.

Over the years she has met and made friends with some of the ancestors of those buried inside the building. She certainly feels she knows them—the living as well as the dead.

The mausoleum and the souls inside represent the lives of 171 people that once lived, loved, and worked in the Beecher area. They built the community. Their connection to the present day is tangible.

Their legacy cannot be ignored or abandoned. Yet for too long this is just what happened, at least until Sandra Thielman came to town in 1996.

Thielman believes that the knowledge of yesterday relates to the present. What past citizens created must endure, especially in a community where so much of what they did remains to this day. Many of the buildings in Beecher are the same buildings where those people lived, shopped, and worked. The Beecher Mausoleum is a beautiful and architectural work of a master that deserves to be preserved.

It almost ended this summer.

Thielman recently uncovered Architect Cecil Bryan’s U.S. Patent for the roof he used on the Beecher Mausoleum. She discovered that he used asbestos roofing paper. That discovery led to the withdrawal of union roofers that had initially volunteered their labor to the project as a way to train young apprentices. Asbestos removal can be very costly as well as dangerous. Union leaders felt they could not volunteer on a job that could put workers in jeopardy.

This news set Thielman into a tailspin; it was the final blow for her. She knew she could no longer afford physically, emotionally, or financially to remain involved in the project if she had to deal with asbestos abatement. She had all but decided to take her family members out of the building, re-bury them elsewhere, and wash her hands of the Beecher Mausoleum once and for all.

If she walked away, she would never look back.

The community would face a huge financial, as well as ethical burden, because state law guarantees protection for the deceased. Locals would be responsible for all the souls inside and the building itself.

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But “tenacious” might as well be Sandra Thielman’s middle name. Once again she traveled–nearly 100 miles from her home near the Wisconsin border–to Beecher. Now 57 years old, she hoisted her ladder and climbed atop the roof, a feat she has performed many times over the years.

She was advised by Jason Bright, a professional roofer that accompanied her on the latest trip that Cecil Bryan’s original roof system had not failed below the layer of asphalt and tar. She was pleased to learn that asbestos was not exposed.

She called Bob Howard, a member of the Will County Board and former Washington Township Supervisor, who serves on the mausoleum’s board, with the good news. He climbed onto the roof and witnessed that the asbestos was sandwiched between layers of asphalt. It was not exposed or friable and posed no threat to workers.

She knew replacing the roof could be a costly undertaking, even with free labor costs as promised by the union roofers. She began raising funds about a year ago when she first learned of the union’s interest in helping. She has raised several thousand dollars for materials for the project that will likely take place next summer, but it is likely not enough.

Tax deductible donations can be sent through the website, to Sandra directly, or deposited at the Beecher Mausoleum account at the First Community Bank of Beecher.

Howard, who is the business representative and financial secretary to the carpenters’ union, managed to convince his union brothers to rejoin the project.

As a result, the roof of the mausoleum will be replaced—probably next spring–thanks to: Local #11—United Union of Roofers-Waterproofers and Allied Workers, Westchester; the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craft Workers, Local #21, Chicago. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Local #434, Chicago Heights has also offered to help anywhere they can. Workers have agreed to do whatever is necessary to repair and replace the roof and stone scuppers and drain spouts on the deteriorating building as well as repair the windows. They plan to use the project as a training activity for new apprentices. The work could potentially result in annual maintenance of the building at only the cost for materials.

Sandra remains concerned that money will be needed now and into the future. She is adamant that there needs to be some form of perpetual care for the mausoleum. She has done about all she can do alone. It is painfully clear that the burden of maintaining the mausoleum can no longer fall on the few ancestral families that have been supportive of the project.

“Ideally, a combination of the village, township, and county will have to step up to the plate,” Thielman says. “As a historical, architectural treasure worth preserving, this source of pride of the community has been built to stand the test of time. It just needs a little help,” she said.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places Sept. 18, 2013
—Listed on the National Register of Historic Places Sept. 18, 2013

The Historic Beecher Mausoleum – Welcomes Drivin’ the Dixie

The Historic Beecher Mausoleum

Welcomes Drivin’ the Dixie

Stop by for a visit – The Mausoleum will be OPEN
Information, tours will be available

Saturday, June 15, 2013 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Learn about Beecher’s pioneering citizens and the history of the mausoleum itself

Win a Guardian Angel

—Won by: Danielle Dean

This sleeping cherub concrete statue has been generously donated by the Guardian Angels, the not-for-profit organization overseeing the Beecher Mausoleum restoration project.

It will be raffled off to a lucky ticket-holder at Beecher’s July 4th celebration. Winner need not be present to win.

Tickets were available at the Township Center, Village Hall, Hack Funeral Home, First Community Bank, and on June 15th at Fireman’s park and at the mausoleum during Drivin’ the Dixie.

lions Club 50-50 raffle 2013

Watch for Guardian Angels’ booth at Fireman’s Park on the Fourth of July
For more information, contact

Driving Directions
From Fireman’s park to the Beecher Mausoleum

Caution drivers: Horner Lane aka: St. Luke’s Cemetery Drive is a gravel road. Go slowly!

Dr. Miley and his daughters in his 1909 Mertz Runabout
“The doctor was always interested in any new mode of transportation and when the invention of the automobile was announced, he was one of the first to order a Metz Runabout in 1909.

There were no such firms as garages and so he ordered the 14 separate packages, each costing about $25. Completely constructed automobiles were not available, and so the put-it-together-yourself kits were sold.

Dr. Miley read the instruction carefully and produced his car; however, he missed one important instruction. The chain that propelled the vehicle was installed backwards and, when the doctor started the car, it would only go in reverse.

Fritz Hinze, the town constable, told him: “You can’t go backing around Beecher. That’s against the law. Don’t see why you bought one of them new-fangled things. They will never be accepted by the people.��?

The doctor re-read the instructions and put the chain in correctly… spinning around town at three miles per hour.

Pat Hack’s New Auto Hearse 1913


Beecher Mausoleum’s First Memorial Day Open House

June 6, 2013 – Beecher Herald –  Staff Reporter

Approximately 100 people attended the two-day Memorial Day event designed to honor the mausoleum’s veterans.


For the Beecher Mausoleum’s first Memorial Day open house, Sandra Thielman, a 17-year advocate and president of the board overseeing the building’s restoration, couldn’t be more pleased.

“It warmed my heart to see all the people walk through the building,” Thielman said. “I noticed some reading the material on display that told about the lives of the people buried inside. Some stood in quiet contemplation. Still others remembered the mausoleum as part of their childhood.”

IMG_2051Thielman reported that approximately 100 people attended the two-day event designed to honor the mausoleum’s veterans. At least 11 veterans of World Wars I and II, as well as at least one known veteran of the Civil War, Joseph Cloidt, is laid to rest inside the mausoleum. Cloidt also is believed to have served as President Abraham Lincoln’s body guard at the time Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address. At least two others may have served in the Civil War and two others in WWI and WWII also, but their past service has not yet been confirmed.

IMG_2054 croppedThe event re-introduced the historic mausoleum to the residents of Beecher, some of whom are descendants of those interred there. Others who came to pay their respects are new residents of Beecher, who had no idea that such a storied building was tucked away in the nether reaches of the community.

The event raised $1,195 in donations, which will go toward the ongoing restoration project.
The most pressing needs are the materials necessary to be used by the roofers, masons, and carpenters unions that have volunteered to help with the project. Work is scheduled to commence this summer.

“We were fortunate that these labor unions have agreed to use our project as a training ground for their apprentices,” Thielman explained. “I am especially grateful to Will County Board Member Bob Howard, who helped secure their assistance. She added that there is no shortage of work that needs to be done to return the building to its former glory.

Thielman was grateful for those who came to visit. One woman said she remembered the stained glass windows, windows that have long been broken. Thielman says that when funds are available, a likeness of the original windows will be created by an artisan. Bullet-proof glass will be installed on the exterior to protect them from vandalism, an act that has plagued the building in the past.

Of those who came by, Thielman was moved by one young man, she estimated to be about 18 years old, who wanted to know specifically where the U.S. Marines were entombed. She showed him while he snapped pictures on his cell phone of the plaques bearing their names and information about their service displayed on the shelves of their crypts. He told her he would be joining the Marines in three weeks.

The open house also produced a visit by Chris Geisler, a retired art teacher from Thornton, and her brother Tom Vandemerkt, a retired Com-Ed worker from Frankfort. The two call themselves Taphophiles, meaning they are old cemetery enthusiasts. The two volunteered to take care of the lawn maintenance at the mausoleum for the entire summer.


—Much of the information about the construction of the mausoleum, Architect Cecil E. Bryan, as well as historical newspaper articles contained in this web site can now be viewed inside the Beecher Mausoleum while touring the building.


—A comfortable place to sit and contemplate the 100 year old history of the mausoleum


—This Guardian Angel, symbolic of the mausoleum’s governing board seemingly watches over the mausoleum

Beecher Mausoleum To Host Open House, Celebrates ‘Historic Place’ Designation

Beecher Mausoleum one of only 10 structures to make the list for endangered historic buildings

May 16, 2013 – Beecher Herald – staff reporter

The Beecher Mausoleum, a Will County historic landmark built 100 years ago, has been recognized by the State of Illinois as an endangered historic place.

Sandra, at press conferance 5.2013Bonnie Mc Donald, Senator Mc Cann 5.2013At an official press conference Tuesday, April 30, Landmarks Illinois, a statewide partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, named ‘community mausoleums’ to their list of 10 most endangered historic places, a list compiled every year since 1995.

Although dozens of applications are received each year, only 10 make the annual list.

“It is a great achievement for the Beecher Mausoleum to be included in the state’s top 10 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. The two are representative of between an estimated 50 and 100 mausoleums across the state 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.

Next weekend, the mausoleum board will host a two-day open house to honor war veterans interred there.

Beecher Mausoleum open house flyerThe event will take place at the Beecher Mausoleum, from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 26 and Monday, May 27, to commemorate the Memorial Day holiday and to honor those veterans interred there. The mausoleum is the final resting place for several of the early citizens of Beecher who served in World Wars I and II, as well as in the Civil War.

Sandra Lee Thielman’s Press Conference Speech


April 30, 2013 Springfield, Illinois

Landmarks Illinois Press Conference announcing

“2013 Ten Most Endangered Landmarks List”



Good Morning,

I’m Sandra Lee Thielman, I would like to introduce Mr. Don Bahlman, Mr. John Bry & Mr. Bob Howard, who are here with me today.

I’m here today to tell you about the Beecher Mausoleum. There are thousands of mausoleums in our country and hundreds in the State of Illinois. Many share the same origins as Beecher, and unfortunately, many have suffered the same fate. That is, the management boards and funds ceased to exist long ago.

Seventeen years ago, I was horrified to find the condition of my family members’ crypts in the Beecher Mausoleum. I began my journey to research the history and restore the humanity and dignity owed to the founding fathers of the Beecher area as well as my own ancestors.

Over the years, I’ve contacted hundreds of descendants all across our country who are as alarmed about the mausoleum’s condition as I am. They care; they have donated what they can, but the efforts of this small group are not enough. I have secured local Will County Landmark Status and applied to the National Landmark Register. I have created a not-for-profit organization. I have reached out to the Beecher and Washington Township communities for support, and many are behind our mission. However, local officials are in a quandary over revenue sources for this problem.

Within the past year, Mr. Howard and I have received the commitment of local unions to donate labor for the most critical repairs. We’re still in desperate need of funds for construction materials and a perpetual care fund for the future.

We also need to change some of Illinois Laws regarding abandoned and neglected mausoleums and cemeteries. It is my belief that it is not the mausoleums that have failed, but an organizational break down.

I know that Illinois laws can be amended without burdening the general public.

For more information please ask for one of our flyers at the end of the meeting or go to or to learn more about community mausoleums

In closing, let me ask you: Will our laws protect your grandparents’ graves permanently? Don’t they deserve a secure final resting place? In Beecher and every town in America the answer is “YES.”

—Illinois Senator Sam McCann, Jacksonville, IL spoke at the press conferences. He promised help for community mausoleums.

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, 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

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

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