Foster Tomb


William F. Foster
1841–1895

William F. Foster made his rather large fortune manufactured a rather small product: fasteners. He also made kid gloves. His final resting place was the subject of a lot of media attention when it was constructed in 1895. The canopied granite structure, which has a cruciform footprint, was designed by architect John Wooley, who had offices at 111 Fifth Avenue. Wooley’s design broke the mausoleum mold since it did not have walls and a door. Despite using massive blocks of granite, the tomb has a much lighter feel, thanks to its open-air construction. The base of the tomb is a single 42 x 24-foot 40-ton slab of granite, which was one of the largest ever quarried in Westerly, Rhode Island (Westerly was an early center for granite quarrying in the United States). Under the slab are catacombs, which have space for eight permanent residents. Centermost on the massive slab is a double sarcophagus, which contains the mortal remains of William F. Foster. Sixteen Tuscan columns frame the stone ensemble. In all, over 1,100 tons of granite were used in the construction of the 52-foot-high tomb.

The structure takes the form of a canopy tomb rather than a mausoleum, although its sheer size puts it in a classification usually reserved for mausoleums. In the simplest sense, canopy tombs are tent-like structures that shelter a sarcophagus. These structures, usually composed of columns or pillars supporting a dome, are open-air affairs, and unlike mausoleums, they have no doors restricting entry. Canopies may be seen in a variety of ancient architecture. They didn’t become part of the European and American architectural repertory until the eighteenth century, when architects began using them for garden pavilions. The decorative potential of these canopied pavilions and kiosks were soon exploited by designers of funerary monuments. They are often seen hovering over a grave or small monument or sheltering a sarcophagus. The Foster Tomb is among the largest canopy tombs in the world.
Text and Photos © Douglas Keister Visit Doug’s Author Page

[address cemetery=”The Woodlawn Cemetery” street=”East 233rd Street” city=”Bronx” state=”New York” zip=”10470″]

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