Dexter Chapel Mausoleum


It took four years (from 1865 to 1869) for Cincinnati architect James Keyes Wilson to design this Gothic Revival combination chapel and mausoleum for the Dexter brothers—the chapel is above and the crypts are below. Although the Dexter brothers wanted a structure that was reminiscent of Sainte Chapelle in Paris, Wilson may also have been inspired by Chinchester Cathedral in England. With its flamboyant design and massive flying buttresses, it is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the Cincinnati Area.

When it was finished in 1869, the Dexter mausoleum had the only flying buttresses in the Cincinnati area. These architectural wonders are fashioned to give buildings extra strength by transmitting the thrust of a vault or a roof from the upper part of a wall to an outer support, known as a buttress. When the buttresses are open, as seen in the Dexter mausoleum, rather than solid, they are known as flying buttresses.

The $100,000 cost of the mausoleum was quite extravagant for its time, but it has long been a centerpiece for Spring Grove Cemetery. The structure has unfortunately been plagued with structural problems almost from the beginning. The sandstone walls were once covered with ivy, which contributed to its decay. Many of the turrets, crockets and pinnacles have deteriorated and fallen to the ground.

Below the chapel area of the Dexter mausoleum are the crypts. Like the rest of the Dexter mausoleum, the crypts are made out of sandstone. Sandstone, especially if it is installed at a certain angle, tends to “melt” over time. The crypts in the Dexter mausoleum are certainly “melting” and appear quite ghoulish. The rear of the crypt area is illuminated by a shaft, which reaches to the upper level chapel behind the altar. The shaft space was intended to contain an elevator for lowering caskets into the crypts, but was never installed. Despite periodic attempts at restoration, it may have to be torn down.
Photos and text © Douglas Keister Visit Doug’s Author Page

[address cemetery=”Spring Grove Cemetery” street=”4521 Spring Grove Avenue” city=”Cincinnati” state=”Ohio” zip=”45232″]

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