Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mount Avon Receiving Vault

Recently, the City of Rochester announced that some restoration work will be done in historic Mount Avon Cemetery this spring and summer. Part of this project will involve the cemetery's receiving vault, a small building located just to the south of the Wilcox gate, which was originally used to store caskets until burial could be made.

In the days before modern excavating equipment was available to cemetery sextons, burial in the winter months when the ground was frozen was not feasible.  In the Rochester area, it was common during the nineteenth century for bodies to be stored in the mausolea or vaults of one of the Pontiac cemeteries until spring, when burial at Mount Avon could take place.  In the spring of 1909,  Rochester hardware merchant Harvey J. Taylor filed a petition with the Avon Township board, praying that a ballot question be placed before the voters to approve a three-year tax to fund the construction of a receiving vault at Mount Avon Cemetery. The proposed vault would be capable of storing at least ten caskets. Co-signers of Taylor's petition included J. F. Jackson, John T. Norton, George Newberry, P. J. O'Brien, J. N. McCornac, Erastus S. Letts, William Clark Chapman, and Charles Sherwin Chapman.  The board granted the prayer of the petition, and the Rochester Era issue of March 19, 1909, carried this entreaty:
On the Proposition to Raise $3,000 to Build a Receiving Vault in Rochester Cemetery
A proposition will be voted upon at the coming township election appropriating $3,000 payable in three yearly installments of $1,000 each, for the building of a receiving vault in Rochester cemetery. This is a step which is most laudable and should carry by a large majority.  The need and necessity for a receiving vault in Rochester cemetery has long been apparent. It is proposed to build a stone or cement vault holding at least ten bodies. Vote "Yes" on the proposition by all means.
The proposition was carried by a vote of 225 to 116, and the receiving vault was built.  As it turned out, however, it was in use for its intending purpose for only about 15 years.  In 1925, when the Flowers Mausoleum Company built a community mausoleum in the cemetery, the township reserved for itself ten of the crypts within the new building for the purpose of storing remains over the winter months, thus rendering the receiving vault obsolete. Over the years, two additions were made to the receiving vault and it was used as an equipment shed.  The City of Rochester now plans to remove the non-sympathetic additions and restore the receiving vault to its original appearance.  Click here to read a recent Rochester Post story about the planned restoration work in the cemetery.

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