CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston leaders hope a state grant will fix the water infiltration problem that has been plaguing the iconic mausoleum at Spring Hill Cemetery for years.
But even if the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) awards the full development grant the city has requested, $100,000 won't cover any repairs inside of the 103-year-old Moorish-style burial site, where marble panels have been falling off the walls.
That means visitors, who have been locked out for about three years, won't be able to pay their respects to loved ones any time soon.
"We can't allow them in for safety," said Perry Cox, the cemetery's superintendent. "We have to keep their safety in mind. Once we get the interior fixed, they'll be able to go back inside.
Not that many folks stop by. "There's two or three families that make their annual trek at Memorial Day," Cox said.
Built in 1910 by Charles Abbitt, the mausoleum stands at the heart of the cemetery, across from the new headquarters building. It's red-tile roof covers two long bays, with concrete-encased crypts stacked on each side of the aisles.
All but 10 of the 505 crypts are occupied, from May Jones Faudree on April 6, 1910, to Mary Ann Holstein on April 26, 2009, and the rest are spoken for, Cox said.
For nearly 60 years, the mausoleum was privately operated by the Charleston Mausoleum Co. The company sold crypts and took care of the place.
But sometime in the early '60s the company, or its owners, ran into financial problems. A deed dated Dec. 1, 1969 notes that the company was assigned to a special receiver by a Kanawha Circuit Court on May 17, 1963 in a case called The State of West Virginia, Plaintiff, vs. A.B.C. Distributors, Inc., and ordered to be sold to raise cash for payment of back taxes.
The city of Charleston bought the property for $500 in 1969, and has been stuck with its maintenance ever since.
Judging by its current condition, those maintenance efforts have been minimal. Cox thinks some repairs were done in the 1980s, although he wasn't around at the time.
"The most recent problem we had was with water getting into the interior," he said.
While not a new problem, water infiltration was getting worse in recent years, Cox said. There are at least two avenues.
Someone removed several windows years ago in what Cox thinks was a misguided effort to add ventilation, so blowing rain easily gets inside. In addition, rainwater seeps through the mortar between the exterior limestone blocks. "Water will find the path of least resistance," he said.
Once it gets inside, the moisture warps the inch-thick marble slabs that cover the interior walls -- even the fronts of the crypts -- causing them to pull away from their backing and their wire hanger. Some slabs have fallen off, and others threaten to do so at any time.
"We were working with a plan to get that cleaned up and we had the derecho come through." Cox said. "It lifted the roof.
"The tiles are wired together. It lifted it up and shook it like a blanket and set it back down. The roof was already leaking, but it sure didn't help."
Using mostly insurance money, Tri-State Roofing put a new $337,000 roof on early this year.