COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Restoring Green Lawn Abbey is a mission now spanning over a decade. The historic landmark building on the south side of Columbus is open to the public for the first time in more than 50 years.
“This whole effort to restore and save and refurbish and revitalize this building is all volunteers,” said Kate Matheny, president of the Columbus Cemetery Association.
The restoration is a volunteer passion project that started 12 years ago.
“We celebrate life here through art, architecture, and history,” Matheny said.
The first step in the mission was to secure the listing of Green Lawn Abbey on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Because of its architecture and because of what it represents in the industry, going from private mausoleums to public mausoleums,” Matheny said.
So, the volunteer organizers are now celebrating the grand reopening.
“We have beautiful stained-glass windows that were installed in the building, the beautiful white marble,” said Shawn Kenney, president of the Green Lawn Abbey Preservation Association. “The building was built like a ship, I mean, really, just a tank. It’s all concrete and marble, made to last the centuries.”
First opening its doors in 1928, Green Lawn Abbey is home to some of the most prominent members of the Capital City, including famous magician Howard Thurston, family members of the Sells Brothers’ Circus, and former Columbus Mayor George J. Karb.
“He was mayor during the 1913 flood, and all the devastation and the challenges to do with that and then the rebuilding of Columbus and the riverfront,” Matheny said.
The Green Lawn Abbey Preservation Association welcomes guests to come and learn about the rich history and stories of those buried beneath its roof.
‘It’s an opportunity to celebrate these people’s lives, what they did, how they did it, keep that information alive, use it for the next generation,” Matheny said.
The mausoleum sits on three acres of green space open to the public. It is also open to families who would like to honor their deceased loved ones with a crypt or niche inside the historic structure.
“People can put cremated remains in there or mementos of a person who has passed,” Matheny said.
Honoring the past, and hopeful for the future.
“So, we’re trying to bring people in for weddings, we’ve got our movie series, we have our Memorial Flag day, we’ve done car shows here, we do a Tales from the Crypt event in October, so just trying to expose people to this historic place,” Kenney said.