Category Archives: McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery

The McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery is one of the most picturesque rural cemeteries in the Pittsburgh area. It occupies a tract of hillside above Fifth Avenue, right next to McKeesport Hospital; the older sections are shaded by fine old trees. There are some fine mausoleums here, and the style of architecture is quite different from what you find in the Pittsburgh cemeteries: McKeesport had its own culture and its own architects.

Crawford Mausoleum, McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery

Another mausoleum in this cemetery whose style is hard to pin down. The shape is classical, but the capitals on the columns are more like a medieval interpretation of Corinthian capitals than they are like classical Corinthian capitals. Below we see this mausoleum as it stands in a row with the Redfern and Shaw mausoleums, just inside the Fifth Avenue gate.

Painter Mausoleum, McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery

This imposing Ionic mausoleum stands in its own circular plot with a commanding view of the valley below. It is a common sort of classical mausoleum, and yet it seems different enough from the classical constructions in the Pittsburgh cemeteries to remind us that we are in McKeesport, which is a different world. The first Painter took up residence here in 1902, so the mausoleum dates from that year or before.

Shaw Mausoleum, McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery

Yet another mausoleum in this cemetery whose style is hard to define; we shall call it Romanesque, because of the rusticated stone, the medieval columns, and the divided arch in the bronze doors. The huge urn on top is almost cartoonish. Two bronze ornaments flanking the inscription have been stolen, probably to be melted down for their trivial worth in metal.

The earliest interment listed here was in 1896, and the most recent in 2001.

Shale Mausoleum, McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery

Without the date 1926 on the front, we might be forgiven for supposing this rustic stone vault to be a relic of the Neolithic era. The date, however, is a bit of a mystery: cemetery records list burials here as early as 1889 (and as recent as 1990). Perhaps 1926 is the date of a major reconstruction of the front, and the stonework to either side is earlier.

This mausoleum once had urns flanking the entrance (probably dating from the 1926 construction, if we accept that some of the stonework is earlier), but only the bases remain. The base on the right-hand side is nearly obliterated by the advancing years. Like many mausoleums in this cemetery, it is half underground; and the slope of the drive in front gives us a good indication of the kind of landscape the architects had to deal with.

J. Denny O’Neil Mausoleum, McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery

An unusual mausoleum in this unusual cemetery—unusual because its restrained modern-classical style would look at home in other Pittsburgh-area cemeteries, whereas most of the mausoleums here are noticeably different from any standard Pittsburgh style. Cemetery records list a James D. O’Neil (who must be the “J. Denny” of the inscription) as the first interment here; he died in 1915, so that is probably about the date of this mausoleum.

Hartman Mausoleum, McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery

Another unusual design from this cemetery. We shall call the style Romanesque because of the prominent round arch and the rusticated stone, but once again the architect has refused to meet our expectations of the Romanesque in the details. You will find nothing quite like it in the Pittsburgh city cemeteries. According to cemetery records, this mausoleum received its first burial in 1883—a few years before the Allegheny County Courthouse opened the floodgates of the Romanesque revival in the Pittsburgh area.

Guthrie Mausoleum, McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery

Here is a mausoleum not quite like anything else Father Pitt has seen in this area. For lack of a better term, he will call the style Romanesque, but there are odd bits of whimsy that suggest a local architect who cared little for any main stream of architectural thought.

Many of the mausoleums in the McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery are half-sunk into the hillside—a style that had gone out of favor in most Pittsburgh cemeteries, but remained popular here well into the twentieth century, probably because the vertical landscape nearly demands it.

Soles Mausoleum, McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery

A good example of the character of the mausoleums in this fascinating cemetery. They seem determined to surprise us with their disregard of standard forms. Here, for example, we have Doric columns; but the rest of the structure is hardly classical, and indeed it is hard to assign it any particular style at all. Yet it is a pleasing design, and its picturesque hillside location is also in its favor.

R. T. Carothers Mausoleum, McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery

Father Pitt would guess that this mausoleum might have originally had a bronze door, which was replaced by the stone in front. If that is so, the replacement is very well and very expensively done, though it does not really match the style of the mausoleum. It is much more delicate than one would expect from a rugged rustic mausoleum like this: the inscription, in particular, clashes with the lettering on the lintel.

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery

This huge tower of zinc may be the biggest zinc monument in the Pittsburgh area. The zinc monument makers sold statues like these to municipalities all over the country as a relatively inexpensive way to have a very impressive Civil War memorial. Huge though they are, they are built on the same principles as the zinc cemetery monuments offered to ordinary families, with various interchangeable parts that can be mixed and swapped to make any composition you like. This one was donated by the citizens of McKeesport, and it lives up to the monument salesman’s most extravagant claims: here we are, more than a century later, and the thing still looks magnificent.