Billings Communal Mausoleum
“If a Mansion in Heaven for the Soul, Why Not a Palace on Earth for the Body” read a 1919 advertisement for the Billings Communal Mausoleum. Intrigued by the “opportunity … to sleep through eternity … secure against the ravages of time,” over two-hundred people subscribed to the project before construction began in 1920. The Montana Mausoleum Company promoted crypt burials as an opportunity for ordinary people to be treated in death like “kings … the favored rich and the honored heroes of all ages.” Promotional material promised “no decay” and “absolutely sanitary desiccation” in an “indestructible” monument of concrete, steel, bronze, and marble for the same price as a regular burial. Noted architect John G. Link, who was later entombed within, designed the 330-crypt mausoleum, incorporating the Montana Mausoleum Company’s patented ventilation system and reinforced concrete construction. The new, inexpensive construction material made building large, multiple-crypt facilities economically feasible. Link’s austere, classical design—which featured a symmetrical cruciform (cross-shaped) plan, barrel-vaulted roof, and columned portico—reflected the mausoleum’s promise of permanence. The stained-glass window memorializes the forty-nine Yellowstone County soldiers, and one Red Cross nurse, killed in World War I. Born of the Progressive Era’s commitment to sanitation and community improvement, communal mausoleums grew in popularity during the 1910s. Over the years, the mausoleum fell into disrepair; the mausoleum company had provided only a fraction of the $25,000 endowment promised for perpetual maintenance. In 1980, Landmark, Inc., a local preservation group took up the cause, raising thousands of dollars to restore the historic building.