What Happens To Abandoned Mausoleums?


In the past, mausoleums were primarily constructed to honor and house the remains of influential leaders or individuals of significance. However, as time passed, smaller mausoleums gained popularity among the gentry and nobility. During the Roman Empire, these structures could be found in necropoles or along roadsides, such as the via Appia Antica near Rome, where numerous private mausoleums were constructed. 

These structures are frequently distinguished by their grandiose architecture and elaborate design features. They range from modest, family-focused mausoleums to extravagant, public monuments of notable individuals like politicians, artists, or historical figures. Moreover, mausoleums can be constructed using different materials, including stone, marble, or concrete. They may also feature ornate sculptures, decorative elements, and inscriptions that reflect the cultural and artistic styles of the era in which they were built.

The deceased are buried in distinct spaces inside mausoleums known as crypts or burial chambers. These rooms can be decorated with sarcophagi, coffins, or other burial caskets. Mausoleums often offer a quiet, meditative setting for visitors to pay their respects and reflect on the lives and legacies of people interred there.

Old stone crypt on the ancient cemetery Black and white tone

The Abandonment of Mausoleums

Mausoleums have traditionally been used as permanent memorials to remember the deceased. However, not every mausoleum gets the same level of maintenance and care over time. Hence, these mausoleums that have been abandoned eventually fall to neglect and abandonment after serving as monuments of recollection and reverence.

Mausoleums that have been left empty are a significant symbol of how times and cultures have changed. They were once majestic structures established to honor important families or people, but now they are just relics of the past. However, abandonment can be caused by a variety of factors, like financial issues, family disputes, or just the passing of time. As generations go by, a decreasing number of individuals take responsibility for maintenance and care, leaving these once-important buildings to fall apart and decay. 

Additionally, the effects of neglect are significant and complicated. The constant forces of nature destroy abandoned mausoleums over time as they are exposed to the weather. Rain, snow, and humidity can get into a building through cracks, broken windows, and damaged roofs. This can cause rust, erosion, and structural instability. As time passes, plants like vines and trees grow into mausoleums, making the damage even worse. 

What Happens To Abandoned Mausoleums? 

As the number of abandoned mausoleums rises, different ideas have come up for what to do with them. Some communities and historical preservation groups take on the challenging task of restoring and keeping these buildings because of its importance to culture and history. These dedicated people or groups raise money, get grants, or do free work to bring these forgotten memorials back to life and ensure they will be around for future generations.

On the other hand, if no work is done on fixing up an abandoned mausoleum, it may be demolished. Local governments, faced with limited resources and competing priorities, may deem restoration unfeasible and choose to remove the decaying structures. This decision is often met with controversy, as some argue that demolishing these mausoleums erases important historical and architectural heritage.

In addition, the adaptive reuse of these buildings has drawn attention to repurposing abandoned mausoleums. While maintaining their original function, several mausoleums have been converted into community centers. These imaginative renovations give abandoned mausoleums new life, aiming to both preserve the past and strengthen the present. However, some of the abandoned mausoleums were just left to decay.

Renowned Abandoned Mausoleums

  1. Roger Williams Park Mausoleum in Cranston, Rhode Island: Constructed in 1926, the mausoleum served as the final resting place for more than 500 individuals, including veterans of World War II. However, no one came forward to claim property ownership after the deaths of its last owners, the Cullinan Sisters, in 2000 and 2002. Hence, recognizing its structural instability, the City of Cranston condemned the mausoleum in January 2005. Additionally, since no individuals or entities expressed a willingness to assume responsibility for the mausoleum, it was placed in receivership. In 2012, Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein officially declared the building abandoned.

    Over the past few decades, the Roger Williams Mausoleum has attracted visits from both the homeless and the curious. Disturbingly, photographs depicting the mausoleum’s interior reveal a site strewn with litter. Furthermore, the bodies within the three-story structure have been tampered with, as evident from the images. Additionally, signs of water damage on the ceiling are also visible, further exacerbating the decay of the mausoleum.

  1. Whispering Maples Memorial Gardens: In the 1980s, the Drown family, who were already involved in the funeral homes and monument business, established Whispering Maples Memorial Gardens. They decided to create two mausoleums and formed a nonprofit organization for this purpose. Similar to a cemetery, individuals would pay for crypts, engraved stones, and the ongoing maintenance of the mausoleums. However, preserving a mausoleum requires constant maintenance and may require expensive repairs. Consequently, allegations have arisen that Whispering Maples failed to fulfill these responsibilities and misused its own funds, leading to scrutiny from state officials.

Moreover, Whispering Maples stands out due to its unique offerings. It encompasses both a mausoleum and a crematorium in Ellenburg, while another mausoleum is situated around thirty minutes away in Plattsburgh. The mausoleum in Plattsburgh has garnered attention for its reportedly deteriorating state, presenting the most significant challenges between the two locations. 


Mausoleums are powerful reminders of a rich and abundant history, as they were once the final resting places of notable individuals. Over time, they evolved to accommodate individuals from more humble backgrounds, reflecting changing societal values. However, maintenance challenges often led to abandonment, leaving these structures in a state of neglect. While some abandoned mausoleums have been repurposed for the benefit of the community – serving as cultural centers or historical landmarks, others continue to deteriorate, leaving families disheartened by the fate of their loved ones’ resting places. Thus, these forgotten mausoleums serve as an eerie reminder of the ongoing struggle to preserve our collective heritage. Furthermore, the history of mausoleums shows how important it is to remember the dead with respect and dignity for everyone. It also shows how important it is for everyone to take care of and protect these architectural treasures.

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