Kitchener: Cemeteries

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The Mausoleums of Kitchener's Woodland Cemetery

By: Doors Open & Aconwr

Canada Mausoleums Ltd. built the Protestant and Catholic mausoleums to designs by the Scottish-born team of David Cameron and William Ralston, architects who worked at the Toronto firm Darling and Pearson before forming their own partnership in 1922. Cameron and Ralston designed at least a dozen large -scale mausoleums that were built in Ontario between the world wars, including big ones in Ottawa and Hamilton. These were part of a trend that saw the marketing and construction of community mausoleums by mausoleum companies in the early twentieth century, as the number and size of municipal cemeteries increased along with continued urban growth.

The stone clad, reinforced concrete structures at Woodland are heritage designated and largely unchanged since their construction in the 1920's. Each is composed of a rectangular central block of crypts (as well as some columbarium niches), flanked on either side by a long wing containing row upon row of more crypts lining a wide corridor: hundreds of crypts in total, designed for whole-body interment. 

Although similar in form, the two buildings are markedly different in their details.

Exteriors

The older of the pair, the Protestant mausoleum, is a very spare Beaux-Arts design faced in Indiana limestone. A portico of four Tuscan columns supporting a simple entablature frames the bronze double entrance doors and transom grille. The central block has beautifully chamfered corners, while the corners of the two wings are rounded. Projecting scuppers drain the flat roofs.

The Catholic mausoleum is in the Romanesque Revival style, uncommon in our region. Like the Protestant building, much of the stone exterior is smooth, but here concentrated areas of ornament provide contrast and texture: finely rendered corbels, arches, friezes, column capitals, sculptural elements, and a tympanum with biblical figures in relief. Typical of the Romanesque, a wide variety of decorative motifs, with little repetition, grace the many corbels under the eaves as well as the capitals atop the numerous columns that flank the entrance. 

Interiors 

Inside, the Catholic mausoleum is quite dark, while the Protestant is comparatively bright. The middle section of the latter benefits from clear clerestory windows. The rest of the windows in the both buildings are leaded stained glass: six in the Protestant, eleven in the Catholic. Most (possibly all) were executed by the Luxfer Prism Co. of Toronto, and many are signed.

In the Protestant mausoleum, three pictorial stained glass windows illuminate three separate semi-private family crypt rooms (Seagram, Pequegnat, Hibner) in the middle section. The transom above the entrance is a wreath and garland design in opalescent and iridescent glass. Two more stained glass windows, at the end of each wing, are particularly large and attractive: one depicts a vivid sunrise scene and the other a moody sunset, both landscapes viewed through silhouetted trees. The striking pair is composed entirely of opalescent and iridescent glass, and their luminous effect is accentuated by the relative darkness of the long corridors.

The stained glass in the Catholic mausoleum is more overtly religious. One large corridor-end window depicts Eucharistic elements circled by a wreath of flowers and foliage. The other features a crown, a cross, and other Christian symbols circled by a wreath of evergreen cones and boughs. Grapes and grape leaves form a border in both windows. The middle section of the Catholic mausoleum, with three blind-arched bays on each side, is configured as a chapel nave, with a marble alter, foldable seating, and a casket hoist system set into the floor that connects to the received vault in the basement level. Behind the altar, three tall hooded windows in a triple-arched arrangement, separated by columns, rest on a deep sill. These include symbols representing the four Evangelists of the New Testament (a winged lion, a winged ox, an angel and an eagle) as well as other symbols, including a dove and a phoenix. Each one of six small, colourful roundel windows high up in the clerestory is centered within a large blind arch. Very slender, non-structural stone columns are arranged around the room. Ornamentation on the interior stone echoes the Romanesque Revival of the fa├žade.

All of the Catholica mausoleum windows were designed by James Blomfield, an English -born Canadian designer, painter, and stained glass artist who figured in the Arts and Crafts movement in the Vancouver area before moving to Ontario in the 1920's. Blomfield designed many windows for Luxfer Prism and Canada Mausoleums, and he is interred in the large Bayview mausoleum in Hamilton, built by Canada Mausoluems and containing windows of Blomfield's own design.  

Polished domestic and European marble is used extensively throughout both interior and exteriors: white, black, and maroon in the Catholic; white, cream, black, and green in the Protestant. The middle section of the latter has marble walls with pilasters and other understated ornament, and above, a decorative plaster frieze and deeply coffered ceiling. There are two small benches by the Globe Furniture Co. of Waterloo, and bronze gates on the three family crypt rooms, two of which contain marble benches.

Many names on the crypts would have a familiar ring for local history enthusiasts. E.F. and Edna (MacLachlan) Seagram, Thomas and Dorothy (Pearson) Seagram, Paul and Linda (Fleischer) Pequegnat, Daniel and Elizabeth (Sherk) Hibner, Dorothy Shoemaker, ford S. and Anna (Henrich) Kumpf, J.M. and Helena (Ahrens) Schneider, C.F. and Louise Thiele, and A.R. Goudie are just a few.

By Karl Kessler, Doors Open Waterloo Region
This text first appeared in a different form in the newsletter of Architectural Conservancy Ontario North Waterloo Region.