Earles Mausoleum

Nadine Earles
April 3, 1929–December 18, 1933
Oakwood Cemetery
Lanett, Alabama

No offense to the 8,500 citizens of Lanett, Alabama, but there isn’t a lot of reason to visit this tidy little town. Well, except for one thing: it has one of the most interesting tombs in America. The tomb of Nadine Earles, though technically called a mausoleum, doesn’t exactly look like a traditional mausoleum. It looks more like a child’s playhouse because that’s exactly what it is. The only deviation from a real playhouse is that little Nadine is buried beneath it, and it is located in Oakwood Cemetery.

Nadine Earles was the oldest daughter of Julian and Alma Earles. Poor little Nadine was born with a cleft lip (also known as a harelip), and spent much of her young life in doctors’ offices and in speech therapy. In November 1929, just before she was scheduled to have her second surgery, she came down with diphtheria, a highly contagious upper-respiratory disease. Because of the contagious and deadly nature of the disease, the entire block where the Earles family lived was roped off, and the Earles’ house was placed under quarantine. Shortly before Nadine became ill, her father had purchased the materials to build her a playhouse, and now that that family was forced to stay home, her father had time to build the playhouse. Unfortunately, all the hammering and sawing noise bothered the feverish Nadine so her father halted construction. As Christmas neared, Nadine was given some of her presents early, but mostly she wanted the playhouse. Alas, Nadine succumbed to the disease on December 18.

Immediately after Nadine’s death, her grief-stricken father tore down the playhouse and began rebuilding it on her gravesite in Oakwood Cemetery. However, Nadine’s new playhouse needed to be built with more permanent materials, and it took going through a couple of contractors before an adequate structure could be built. On April 3, 1934, on what would have been Nadine’s 5th birthday, a group of twenty-five children dressed in their best party clothes showed up at Nadine’s playhouse to enjoy games and a traditional birthday cake with ice cream. A photograph of that celebration is mounted in an oval frame and propped up against a window inside the playhouse.

As the years have progressed, Nadine’s playhouse has been meticulously maintained by the family. Gifts are often left on the steps. A number of Nadine’s dolls, and others sent by visitors, decorate the playhouse’s interior. Nadine’s father Julian died in 1976 and her mother Alma died in 1981. Their graves are located directly in front of the playhouse.
Text and photo © Douglas Keister Visit Doug’s Author Page

[address cemetery=”Oakwood Cemetery” city=”Lanette” state=”Alabama” zip=”36863″]

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