The State of Wright: Blue Sky Mausoleum
Photo courtesy of Forest Lawn
Status: Available for guided and self-touring
Location: Forest Lawn Cemetery, Delaware Avenue
History: Darwin Martin asked Frank Lloyd Wright to design a mausoleum for his family at Forest Lawn Cemetery. Martin commissioned the design between 1925 and 1928. However, due to the Great Depression and Martin’s business woes, the structure was never built during his lifetime.
After extensive research into Wright’s designs and notes, and the correspondence between the two men, Forest Lawn constructed the memorial. The Blue Sky Mausoleum, made of glistening white granite and concrete, was unveiled in 2004. This is the first of three previously-unexecuted Wright designs to be built in Buffalo. The second is the Rowing Boathouse, and the third will be a gasoline filling station.
Significance: Forest Lawn consists of 269 acres in one of the first professionally landscaped cemeteries in the United States. Its rolling hills, lakes, and meandering creek are backdrop to a veritable sculpture museum and the resting place for 162,000 Buffalonians. The Blue Sky mausoleum is one of only three Wright-designed memorials and is considered to be his most innovative.
What to look for: As opposed to the other funerary designs in the cemetery, Wright’s breaks the box of the conventional mausoleum, by eliminating the typical structural elements. A note from Wright to Martin explains, “This is burial facing the open sky—a dignified great headstone commune to all.”
Comments: The memorial is best experienced if you start at the top and walk to the lowest level, then turn to look back up the hill. There are two parallel rows of twelve double-tiered crypts. Take notice of the single row of stairs that runs between the rows. Those stairs terrace and subtly widen as they climb the gentle ascent to a small plaza. On the right day, the composition is capped by an exquisite blue sky.
Final tip: These twenty-four crypts represent the only opportunities in the world where one can chose to be memorialized in a Frank Lloyd Wright structure; twenty-one were still available at press time.
Last week, and again this week, we will post a series that organizes each Wright gem by location, history, what should be seen, and additional information that may pique visitor interest. There are many more resources, including guided tours for most sites, excluding the private homes. It is hoped that this guide will inspire readers to see firsthand the reasons why visitors from all over the world make the trip to Buffalo to experience Frank Lloyd Wright.