Escorts on the journey ahead

The modest mausoleum in the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx was built for Charles Waite Waller (March 20, 1870-January 19, 1927) and his wife, Rose Ann Hutchcroft Waller.  Charles was born in the tiny coastal village of Anderby, England, with the original name of Whaler, which he later changed to Waller.  Waller was the financial officer and vice president for the United Hotel Company.  According to the January 20, 1927, Washington, D.C. Evening Star, (page 16), Waller was a hotel finance expert who died at the age of 56.  In addition to his work at the hotel company, Waller was long interested in electrical power and was associated in business with General Electric for over 15 years.  Waller died during a business conference he was conducting in his home.

The building is a plain unpolished gray granite tomb with a curved pediment as its only adornment.   The focal point of the mausoleum is the door which was created by Austrian-born artist Julius Loester.  Loester (April 12, 1861—July 20, 1923) was the son of Josef and Wilhelmine Loester who, like many artists at the time, took private and public commissions.

The figure Loester created for the Waller Waite mausoleum is like so many of the doors for tombs, it features a classically dressed and draped mourning figure standing with her head bowed, tentatively waiting in somber silence.  In David Robinson’s book, Saving Graces, he describes these figures as “grieving women who signify how deeply the deceased is missed.  As symbolic mourners, their idealized beauty is spiritual, representing purity, passion, and commitment…But these women also serve as escorts on the journey ahead.  As designated companions in eternity, they are posted there to watch over and take care of the deceased.  Forever present, they are also forever young…these women symbolize the aspiration of eternal life, not the acceptance of death.  They may grieve, but they also comfort, and in this role, their beauty is more sensual than spiritual.”  Robinson notes that these mourning figures are “Pure on the one hand, sensual on the other, idealized yet lifelike…a very human combination of spiritual devotion and earthly desire.”

Loester took commissions for funerary monuments.  For instance, he created the doors for the Winter Mausoleum in the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh and the door for the Woolworth Mausoleum in Woodlawn Cemetery.  But He also received commissions for innovative and new sculptural projects.  An article titled, “Models in Miniature: A New Device of Architects to Prevent Disappointment of Owner,” in the New York Tribune from November 16, 1902, states that millionaires building palatial homes in Manhattan were often disappointed once the house was built because they didn’t really understand the plans they looked at when the blueprints were drawn up.  According to the article, innovative artist Julius C. Loester took the plans and constructed a plaster scale model of the house so the owners could see in 3-D what their house would look like thereby preventing disappointment.

He also won some major public commission work, such as the contract for the creation of the statuary for the Liberal Arts Building and the Horticulture Building at the Trans-Mississippi International Exposition of 1898 in Omaha, Nebraska.

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