The first private mausoleum built in the Crown hill Cemetery at Indianapolis, Indiana, is an example of the Egyptian Revival architecture found in many large urban cemeteries.
The large sandstone mausoleum has many features of Egyptian temples–the cavetto cornice that curves into a half circle at the top of the tomb and above the doorway, the torus molding at the bottom of the cornice, around the door, and the corners of the mausoleum that are designed to emulate long bundled plants, and the heavy columns with the palm leaves at the top that flank the entrance to the tomb.
Funerary art and architecture was designed to illicit emotions, such as the finality of death and the Christian ideal of eternity. The tomb also features a winged globes with uroei. The globe represents the Egyptian god, Horus. The uroei, snakes, are waiting to strike. They symbolize the king’s ability to ward off evil spirits.
Carved on the top of the tomb is the Ouroboros ophis, an ancient symbol depicting a snake eating its tail. The word, Ouroboros, is Greek—oura meaning tail; vora meaning eating, and ophis meaning serpent or snake. In ancient Egypt, the Ouroboros represented the daily passage of the sun. The snake eating its tail in cemetery symbolism represents the cycle of life—birth and death—and eternity.
The massive tomb gives one the sense of solemnity and a sense of eternity, just as did the temples of the pharaohs. It was built to hold the remains of Caleb Blood Smith (April 16, 1808 – January 7, 1864), a towering political figure in 19th Century politics. Smith was admitted to the Indiana bar and hung out his shingle to work as an attorney. He was elected to several terms in the Indiana state legislature. In 1843 Smith was elected to Congress as a Whig representing the 4th Indiana District and served until 1849. Smith campaigned for Abraham Lincoln and as a reward Lincoln appointed Smith Secretary of the Interior—a post he only held for less than two years. Smith was appointed as District Court Judge for the District of Indiana, which he held until his death on January 7, 1864.
According to Memories of the Past: A Tour of Historic Crown Hill Cemetery by Wayne L. Sanford (page 11), “Smith’s wife, the former Elizabeth B. Watson, buried him temporarily at City Cemetery and was on hand during the first public sale of Crown Hill property held June 8, 1864. On that occasion she selected this property on which she immediately constructed this mausoleum. The structure was completed that year, but for unknown reason she never entombed her husband inside. For that matter, there is still some mystery as to what Elizabeth actually did with Caleb’s remains.”
Caleb Smith’s wife, daughter and son are buried in the tomb—but not Caleb Smith. His body is still missing.