Historic Photos of Oak Grove Cemetery and Mausoleum

Update: The former owner, Marilyn Stanza, sold the property in 2016 as part of a settlement with the former attorney general of Missouri, Chris Koster, which also included surrendering her undertaker’s license. Stanza died in 2018. Despite many sources describing the architecture of this mausoleum as “Byzantine Revival,” that is not a correct description; it is Beaux-Arts. Better scans of the images added in August of 2020.

I returned to Oak Grove Cemetery recently and met with the staff, learning many interesting facts about the mausoleum and grounds.

They were also kind enough to give me an original promotional brochure from shortly after the mausoleum’s opening.

Above is the upper floor of the central rotunda, and below is the lower floor of the majestic space.

I get the impression that the marketing was geared toward making the act of burial and visiting of graves a cleaner and more scientific method compared to the old, muddy graveyards of the past.

I love the stained glass window in this chapel below; it is clearly based off of the Sistine Madonna by Raphael in Dresden, Germany.

Here are some of the other chapels and hallways in the mausoleum, showing the nice white Carrara marble that adorns the walls.

I’m creeped out by mausolea; I’m used to the old fashioned cemetery burials where all of my relatives are buried. It’s interesting to see how different people react to different burial methods.

The brochure mocks “old fashioned” cemeteries.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Jeff says:

    scan pictures instead of trying to photograph them… excellent reproduction with no flash or lighting source or perspective distortion

  2. Denise Heising says:

    I love this mausoleum. My grandparents are buried there. I was appalled at the condition of this once beautiful place the last time I visited with my son in 2009. I live near New Orleans now and don’t get up to St. Louis often. I’ve told my son about the mausoleum since he was a little guy. When we were finally able to visit, it was such a disappointment. I am disabled and don’t have much money, but would be happy to give something to help restore this priceless piece of history.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Denise, I am going to update this post; under no circumstance should you donate money to the owners at this point. The attorney general of Missouri is suing the owner for failing to properly maintain the cemetery.

      If you have Facebook, please consider following this page:


  3. Max says:

    I have confidence that Mr Harris has the professionalism and cachet from his extensive funeral service career to reinvigorate this historic St Louis cemetery, and its architecturally-renowned mausoleum and crematory.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Max, yes, I should update this to reflect that Marilyn Stanza no longer owns this cemetery and mausoleum, but is now owned by the highly reputable Harris Family. I also have high confidence in their ability to operate the cemetery with the dignity so lacking with the previous owner.

      1. Matthew S Kallam says:

        Chris it is you….I have been trying desperately to find this page. Could you give me a call. 803-778-2064

  4. Matthew Michaels says:

    There are terrible things being done at the mausoleum at Oak grove.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Oh, I’ve heard and seen things, too.

  5. Matthew S Kallam says:

    Over two years ago, I took a job at oak grove. I was hired and fired within 3 days. I got a call from the owner a week later and he says, seems like we made a mistake and what will it take to get you back. I reply twice the money twice the power and the mausoleum is my side project. I have worked in cemetary’s my whole life and have the upmost respect for the dead and their families. Grieving is a long process and anything to make someone’s loved ones visit special, I would do. I have seen comments here and there about me. Whether it was raising a stone or kind words. That’s was me. I am from NC and was walking my dog when I stumbled on oak grove. I knew what it needed and was set out to get it straight. I seen the arch and the Zoo. The next best thing is oak grove. At first I had keys and anyone came to visit in the mausoleum I would greet and offer any of service they might need. I started to notice footprints in the main corridor sometimes in the morning. Now I am a woods man and have hunted my whole life so I sat in wait 2 nights in a row and here comes a little toyota truck. Pulls right to the door and gets out and goes in. Now I have no evidence what was going on in there. I have my speculations, but we can talk about that later. So the cemetary starts getting attention and more and more people are showing up along with reporters and journalist and im excited. I want to open the mausoleum for venues and even a kids night and let them skate around the place. Little did I know the cemetary did.t want the attention. I was told to train one of the guys to find pins and dig graves. After I did that my pay was cut down to nothing and my position was taken and I wasn’t allowed in mausoleum anymore. So when people came to visit they were escorted to their loved ones and supervised during their visit. This hurt me more than anything so I quit the cemetary. That didn’t stop me from visiting because I had a key. I would visit the mausoleum once every couple of months and walk thru. Feb 2021 I stopped by and seen that the vase was gone. I franticly ran thru the place looking high and low for it. It wasn’t there. I know who took the vase. Had nothing to do with me I only overheard someone talking about that and a million dollars in poker chips in a vault. First room on the right . I went there and the whole room was gone. Carpet and everything. I snapped and took 6 statues 3 marble and 3 bronze. Anything someone could just walk out with. The next day I contacted one of the oak grove pages that I had been blogging on and spoke with one of the responders to my previous entries. I told him I have the statues and I wanted to make sure they didn’t disappear too. He stated that the statues were tainted now. So I put them in a safe place. A couple months later I am brought in for questioning. I tell the same story as I am now. The detective says we just want the stuff back. I say no problem and send him to get the 6 statues that I took and thats that. Almost 2 years later I am charged with the burglary and theft of 10k or more. I know what I did was wrong. But there was a lot more stuff going on at the cemetery behind the scenes that had me fighting demons inside of me. I need to talk to a prosecutor or judge and give them the information I have.

  6. Matthew S Kallam says:

    Chris it is you….I have been trying desperately to find this page. Could you give me a call. 803-778-2064

  7. Matthew S Kallam says:

    I would dedicate the rest of my life to keeping the Mausoleum up and running well. There are so many beautiful souls there. I wanted to put modern lights in with music that follows you throughout the building. Proper ventilation so it doesn’t sweat in the heat and a french drain all the way around the building to keep the water out. I would pay mine own salary and live on premises. Some of the fondest memories I have had at the cemetary was when I remembered to fix something for someone and they would come back and see their graveside just manicured to perfection and stone cleaned real nice. I am a sand blaster by trade and would be thrilled to soda blast a lot of the markers and the women on the outside. I am sure after I blow the whistle on the other things I know. The owners may just change hands again. I am a loner and do better when I am just left alone and maybe thats why I don’t mind working in cemeteries and funeral homes. how nice it would be and how proud old man Stanza would be to see the lights on and the door open 24/7 for the families to come spend time with their loved ones. I could see myself in 20 years there taking care….

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