If you ever get the chance to walk through one of the historical garden cemeteries like Laurel Hill in Philly or Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, you’ll find all sorts of elaborate mausoleums and memorials. But some time ago, that went out of fashion for simpler tombstones.
Now, it looks like the trend is reversing. The NY Times has a great article with pics on new mausoleum styles for the wealthy. One such mausoleum for Florida real estate developer, Ed Peck is a “Greek-pillared neo-Classical style structure of white granite” with a granite patio, a meditation room, doors of hand-cast bronze and a chandelier. The total cost of the mausoleum and lot – $400,000.
Six feet up and not six feet under is increasingly the direction in which people want their remains stored when they die, representatives of the funeral industry say. In addition to custom single-family mausoleums, community mausoleums for both coffins and cremated remains are also gaining popularity; in classical or contemporary styles, these often have room to hold hundreds of niches for coffins or urns.
The Cold Spring Granite Company, among the country’s largest makers of cemetery monuments, sold 2,000 private mausoleums last year, up from about 65 during a good year in the 1980’s. Prices range from $250,000 to “well into the millions,” said Michael T. Baklarz, a vice president of the company.
Not everyone wants an elaborate burial. According to the article
industry experts say that more than a quarter of the 2.3 million people who died in 2004 were cremated – and some opted for new forms of interment like the “green burials” that flickered onto the cultural radar after a character from the HBO series “Six Feet Under” was buried unembalmed and without a coffin, in an unmarked grave protected by a nature preserve.
Yet the brief buzz about eco-burial, executives from America’s nearly $15 billion funeral industry say, may obscure the larger reality that, as in seemingly every other facet of contemporary life, the taste for personalization has touched the funeral industry in time to provide an otherwise static business with an opportunity for growth.
It seems like the funeral industry is becoming more proactive. Instead of waiting until death occurs and pitching affordable options, they’re going after the still-living wealthy.