Analysis of the Tomb Data

The data collected from the mausoleum survey can be categorized by the physical attributes of the structures and by the demographics of the individuals entombed. The decade built, material used, orientation, and epitaphs show diachronic trends over the century of the study period (1905–2008).


Wilmott Mausoleum located in Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, FL; shows ashlar stone work.

The broadest category of typology is the number of crypts within each tomb. A crypt is a chamber or vault containing an entombed individual—usually within a coffin or casket. The most popular arrangement for non-walk-in style mausoleums is a double-crypt (59), followed by a single crypt (29). Additionally, there are triples (4), quads (4), sixes (1), and a single example of an eight (split into two quads and joined by an arch). In three instances, there are dual entombments in single crypts. Two are in single-vault mausoleums, and each contains two adults. The third shared chamber is in the Wilmott six-crypt walk-in mausoleum in Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando. The parents and the oldest child (six years) are in separate crypts. The two youngest children (two years and one year) share, and the two remaining crypts are empty.

The walk-in style mausoleums were classified by how many physical crypts are in the tomb versus how many can fit. Of the five occupied walk-ins, three are singles, one is double, and one contains six crypts, with four being used (Wilmott). For statistical purposes the four empty walk-in mausoleums were assigned as single-crypts. It is unknown how many individuals they will ultimately hold.

In addition to the 152 entombments, 56 crypts are empty. Of these, thirty-four have been etched with names and birth date information. All of these pre-need inscriptions are on multi-crypt tombs. The only pre-need purchase of a single-crypt tomb is one without adornment.

Fenza defines dynastic mausoleums as those with extended family including a couple, their descendants (with spouses), and sometimes grandchildren.[1] The six- and eight-crypt tombs fall under the dynastic mausoleum definition. However, neither of these dynastic structures are walk-in style architecture; they are the more recent granite compartmental construction. In both of these cases, less than half of the crypts are filled.

A more specific level of typology involves a combination of building material and time frame of construction. There is an older, quainter style of concrete- and brick-based construction, which over time is supplanted by marble. In the 1960s, the more modern mass-produced granite mausoleums came into fashion.[2] For single-crypt tombs, the early part of the twentieth century had more unique examples of barrel- and pitched-roof styles. By mid-century, the more typical marble chest tomb is prevalent, and the only change into the late century is from marble to granite. Doubles and triples followed a similar evolution, with barrel-roof and oven tombs becoming multiple-crypt, wide box tombs.[3] All of the larger quantity crypts—quads and higher—are of modern granite construction.

Central Florida walk-in mausoleums follow a similar transition of materials. A single example of concrete construction is the Wilmott mausoleum—the oldest tomb in the survey area—which is covered with plaster to resemble ashlar blocks.  The Weeks tomb is rusticated granite with marble doors and is the only use of granite until the 1960s. The Landone mausoleum is the first use of marble and was composed of larger slabs and a wrought-iron gate. These three mausoleums are much less ostentatious than those in larger cities in New England and in other parts of the South. The early Central Florida structures illustrate a transition of style that became more ornate before entering the modernistic granite phase toward the end of the century. Modern granite mausoleums are what Cronin describes as “prefabricated tombs,” as they are shipped from large companies across the country.[4] Six of the nine walk-in mausoleums in the survey area are post-1990 prefabricated granite models. The remaining three are architecturally unique, as noted above, and are dated 1940 and earlier.


Post-1990 pre-fabricated granite mausoleum located in Palm Cemetery, Winter Park, FL; tomb is pre-need.

The rural cemetery movement used horticultural garden design as the basis for the layout of the cemetery landscape. This type of cemetery was high maintenance, due to the diversity and complexity of the decorative plant life, and the allowable plants were restricted by the rules of each cemetery.[5] In the continued evolution of cemetery designs, the formal gardens were dropped in favor of large expanses of grass with markers flush to the ground. These became known as lawn park and memorial park cemeteries. With the advent of park cemeteries in the late 1800s, mausoleums again became fashionable as a way to stand out in the cemetery. In various parts of the United State and in some southern cities, such as Mobile, Alabama, the private mausoleums’ popularity was highest from the 1880s to 1920.[6]

No nineteenth-century tombs exist in Central Florida. Mausoleum construction did not begin until 1905, and the trend grew slowly until the 1960s and 1970s. During the peak construction period, an average of just over one mausoleum per year was built.  This steady period was followed by a dearth of construction in the 1980s. Pre-need sales pushed the totals much higher in the 1990s, and many of the newer tombs are still partially empty.

The late popularity of mausoleums in the Central Florida area may be tied to the population of the region. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the population of the area was just 11,374. The number of permanent residents of Orange and Seminole counties grew steadily through the century. Within this time period, there were two large growth spurts. The first occurred between 1920 and 1930, when there was a 121.8% increase, and the second was between 1950 and 1960, with a 124.6% increase.[7] The number of mausoleums built during these decades also shows a larger increase than normal.


The orientation of Central Florida tombs is entwined in the aesthetics of the cemetery landscape and in religious burial practices. The measurement is based on the direction that the inscriptions or doors face; eleven of the seventeen cemeteries have their mausoleums facing towards the cardinal directions.[8] The Christian practice of burying the dead on an east-west orientation can be seen in the smaller cemeteries, where sixty (56%) of the 107 overall tombs stand on that axis.[9] The actual direction of the bodies’ orientation is unknown, as that data is not recorded. The remaining cemeteries are more fluid in their design, causing the tombs to face either the curved driveways or the lakeshore near where they were built. All of the commercial memorial parks (All Faiths, Chapel Hill, Glenhaven, Oaklawn, and Woodlawn), along with the city cemetery of Orlando (Greenwood), have this type of layout, and the tomb orientations span the compass.



Only twenty-seven of the mausoleums have epitaphs (25.2%). These can be categorized as religious passages, relationship identifiers, or other. Seven epitaphs are at the tomb level (“Coming Home,” “Forever in Love,” “Shangri-La,” “Together Forever,” Isaiah 40:31, John 11:25, and Luke 10:30); the remainder are specific for an individual. The six religious passages on Central Florida tombs are split evenly between individual epitaphs and tomb level. One example is in Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, on the tomb of Fred S. Weeks. The passage is Luke 10:30, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves.” However, Mr. Weeks was not quoting scripture, but describing his life. He was swindled out of his money, and his wife left him. After he finished building the mausoleum himself, he etched not only the passage but also the names of the men who swindled him into one of the doors.[10] His family had the names removed from the door, leaving a rectangle missing from the left-hand door just above the handle.

Relationship epitaphs are the most common, with nineteen individuals on eleven tombs. Some relationship identifiers use more than one term such as “Beloved Father and Husband.” The relationship terms appearing on the mausoleums were (in order of frequency) mother (5), wife (5), daughter (4), father (3), husband (2), son (2), brother (1), sister (1), grandfather (1), and grandmother (1). The “other” category includes such things as nicknames, Rest in Peace, and other common phrases (e.g., “None knew thee but to love thee”).

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[1] Paula J. Fenza, “Communities of the Dead: Tombstones as a Reflection of Social Organization,” Markers VI (1989):136–157.

[2] The thirteen empty mausoleums were undated and were not included in this analysis.

[3] The Sims family tomb is constructed of brick and is covered by blue ceramic tiles (Fig. 10). It is the most unique tomb in the survey area.

[4] Cronin, “Introduction,” 4. Also, Norm Brown, sexton of Palm Cemetery, Winter Park, told the author that the Dakota Granite Company (Milbank, SD) shipped a walk-in mausoleum to the cemetery.

[5] Kenneth T. Jackson and Camilo José Vergara, Silent Cities: The Evolution of the American Cemetery (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1989): 20.

[6] Mytum, Mortuary Monuments, 99; John S. Sledge, Cities of Silence: A Guide to Mobile’s Historic Cemeteries (Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press, 2002): xcii.

[7] U.S. Bureau of the Census, Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990, Washington, DC, 1995. Online at

[8] The measurements for cardinal directions include a variance of plus or minus ten degrees, as many times, east-west burials were based on the sunrise and sunset and not necessarily due east or due west.

[9] H. J. Rose, “Celestial and Terrestrial Orientation of the Dead,” The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 52 (January 1922):127–140.

[10] Donald Price, sexton of Greenwood Cemetery, told the story to the author during the moonlight tour of the cemetery on Friday March 2, 2007.