About the Abbey
Green Lawn Abbey was built by the Columbus Mausoleum Company, a local company that built numerous mausoleums in central Ohio. The Abbey wasn’t the company’s first mausoleum, nor was it it’s last but it was its finest.
Construction of the Abbey began in 1927 and opened for business in 1929 as a “community” mausoleum. Community mausoleums were a new business model for cemeteries. Historically mausoleums were built by individual families for their own occupancy. But a community mausoleum offered crypts in an already-constructed building that could be purchased individually.
The Abbey was much sought after by new wealth in Columbus as evidenced by purchases by successful entrepreneurs and accomplished professionals. Interred at the Abbey are members of the Sells family, who owned and operated a circus, Howard Thurston, an internationally famous magician, and George Karb, Columbus Mayor at the time of the catastrophic 1913 flood and who oversaw Columbus redevelopment afterwards. Just to name a few.
Late in the 20th century, Green Lawn Abbey declined considerably. The target of vandals and break-ins and lacking sufficient funds for much needed renovations. It wasn’t until 2008, when the Green Lawn Abbey Preservation Association was formed that the Abbey’s renaissance began.
Green Lawn Abbey is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of its fine Palladio-inspired neoclassical architecture, its high-quality materials, and expert craftsmanship. It is also listed because it represents new growth in American commerce, that is, community mausoleums.
Green Lawn Abbey is a superb example of neoclassical architecture expertly executed in the style of 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio. Configured like an Italian villa, the 2nd floor has high ceilings, sports free standing marble columns and marble mantles, and is graced with natural lighting from its many stained glass windows.
It is a 2-story symmetrical building, whose most prominent feature is the classical Tuscan-style portico topped by a pediment inscribed with the year 1927, and Green Lawn Abbey carved into the frieze.
The stained glass windows of the Abbey are truly exceptional. They were produced by the Rossbach Art Glass Company, a highly regarded local company active in Columbus from 1908 through 1944. Abbey windows represent biblical stories. Most are superbly executed in the Art Deco style.
Lacking adequate maintenance for decades, the Abbey had deteriorated considerably by 2008 and much needed to be done. The GLAPA board tackled the challenge and raised funds to renovate/replace two of the four roofs, restore eight windows, stabilize the foundation and granite two-story steps, hone the marble floors, install new wiring throughout and renovate one set of bronze doors. The bathroom was recently updated, expanded and made ADA-compliant. The architectural firm Schooley Caldwell Associates oversaw the work that was funded in part by the Certified Local Government program administered by the Ohio History Connection. Much remains to be done but the transformation is truly remarkable.