By KELLY SULLIVAN As over 500 people were interred within the walls of Roger Williams Mausoleum, located on Cyr Street in Cranston, the loved ones they left behind never imagined that this resting place would not be eternal. In 1926, Thomas Cullinan
As over 500 people were interred within the walls of Roger Williams Mausoleum, located on Cyr Street in Cranston, the loved ones they left behind never imagined that this resting place would not be eternal.
In 1926, Thomas Cullinan completed his new, three-story, private mausoleum. The 52-year-old building contractor designed the enormous stone structure, where compartmented walls were opened to accept caskets for decades.
Cullinan died in 1938, leaving the care of the mausoleum to his daughters, Helen and Katherine. Helen died in 2000 and Katherine in 2002. No provisions were left for care of the building and, since that time, nature has taken its toll. The roof has crumbled, rain and snow have gotten inside, as well as animals, vandals and graverobbers who have opened caskets and removed valuable objects.
After being condemned by the city of Cranston, the structure was fenced off, locked and posted with no-trespassing signs in 2005. Legal hearings as well as plans for removing the bodies inside have gone on for years. However, with an estimate of $6,000 per body for removal and reinternment at another location, neither the city nor the state are able to provide funding. It is up to the families of those who repose there to rescue their deceased from the crumbling building, which will eventually have to be razed.
Former Warwick residents interred in the mausoleum include Wisconsin native Florence Melvina (Brook) Hammond, who died on July 17, 1969, at age 90. Her husband, Ralph Everitt Hammond, a former brass foundry foreman who died on Feb. 10, 1938, at age 68, also lies there along with their daughter, Grace Mae Hammond, a former coal company stenographer who died at age 87 on July 20, 1991.
Elizabeth Manchester (Kenaston) Wood, who died at age 62 on March 13, 1948, and her husband, Charles Allen Wood, also repose there. Charles was once employed as a steamfitter and died on April 7, 1932, at age 69.
A native of Sweden and a former funeral parlor director, Alfred Juhlin, was interred there after his death on Jan. 26, 1949, at age 81. His wife, Ellen Marie Lindquist, also of Sweden, joined him at age 76 on July 1, 1950.
The owner of the Edward P. Masse Land Company of Providence died on Aug. 7, 1942, at age 82 and was laid to rest there, along with his wife, Ellen Frances (Guyon) Masse, who died on Oct. 1, 1940, at age 68.
Elmer Thurston Smith, aged 61 when he died on Nov. 28, 1949, and his wife, Blanche Kemmerer (Schleicher) Smith, lie inside, as well as Blanche’s parents, John Andrew Schleicher and Mary Elizabeth (Kemmerer) Schleicher. John was a former toolmaker at Brown & Sharpe and one of the first employees to die-sink at Phoenix Manufacturing Company. He bared such a strong resemblance to Henry Ford that he was known as the “Henry Ford of Providence.” A native of Philadelphia, he died on Nov. 15, 1937, at age 76. His wife, also from Pennsylvania, died at age 66 on Oct. 4, 1929.
John Albert Chaplin, a jeweler, was 73 when he died on Nov. 14, 1935, and was interred in the building. Upon death, he joined his Russian-born wife, Bertha Sophia (Westerland) Chaplin, who died on March 15, 1928 at age 61.
Blanche Edna (Videon) Gendron, a native of Massachusetts who died at age 70 on Aug. 26, 1954, lies separate from her husband, Joseph Gendron, a former Washington Street, West Warwick hotel proprietor. When he died in 1943, he was laid to rest in St. Joseph’s Cemetery.
Norwegian native Paul Olsen Nordahl, aged 79 when he died on Aug. 7, 1937, and his wife, Anna Olsen (Nelson) Nordahl, aged 78 when she died on March 29, 1935, are interred along with their daughter, Margaret, and her husband, John Peter Rose. John was a former auto repairman who died on July 26, 1947, at age 57.
Walter Henry Rice, who died on Dec. 26, 1937, at age 84, and his wife, Frances (Hamilton) Rice, also lie within the crumbling building. Frances died at the State Hospital at 10:30 a.m. on July 3, 1926, at age 65 after suffering for almost three months from tuberculosis.
William Clayton Smith, a native of England and a former assistant superintendent at a dry goods store, was placed in the mausoleum after his death at age 80 on Dec. 26, 1940. His wife, Emma Sophia (Stratton), a former saleslady in a corset shop, joined him on May 23, 1941, at age 75.
Susan (Langford) Alford, a native of England, was brought to the mausoleum after her death on March 11, 1953, at age 75. Her husband, George, a former electrician and an engineer at an underwear company, reposes there as well.
Ella Florence (Arnold) Botham, aged 71 when she died on Jan. 25, 1945, rests apart from her husband, Harry Robert Botham, a former electric car motorman for the Rhode Island Company who died in 1938 and was laid to rest at Pawtuxet Memorial Park.
Former machinist Claude Gates Sherman, who died on Feb. 25, 1947, at age 63, also rests without his wife, Harriet Orcelia (Crooks), who died in 1966 and was interred in Swan Point Cemetery.
For all of these people, and the hundreds more around them, their eternal “peace” has yet to come.
Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.
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