Friday, May 31, 2013

The Costello Monument at St Patrick Cemetery

There is a sort of timeline that runs through St. Patrick Cemetery.  It begins with Yards 1 & 2 that run along Old English Cemetery.  The slate stones gradually end as more marble stones appear as one enters Yard 3.  By the end of the 1800s Yards, 4, 5, and 6 were added and the marbles turned to granite.  With the advent of technology and the rise in the economic status of the growing Irish population, the stones became more elaborate.  The simple slate stones with names and dates are often forgotten in the shadow of what is erected in the office area.  These stones too have their stories to tell.  While the slate stones are often stories of hardship and leaving home, the grander monuments tell of financial and social success.
Many folks who drive by Gorham Street cast an eye as they pass to take a look at one of the most prominent monuments in the cemetery, that of the Costello family.  The story of the monument is just as fascinating as the story of the family who built it. The following is a post written by Kim Zinino from the Lowell Historic Board and fellow gravestone enthusiast.
One of the most fascinating structures in the St. Patrick’s Cemetery is the Costello Chapel. This chapel was commissioned by prominent businessman Thomas F. Costello around 1905. With a very successful plumbing fixture business in Lowell, he had the chapel built for his son, Rev. Fr. George A. Costello, who served as the pastor of St. Bridget’s Roman Catholic Church in Lexington until his death in 1915. Thomas Costello passed away in early 1906.
Often mistaken for a mausoleum, the chapel was designed for performing Mass and the only burials are in the Costello family plot in front of the structure. Designed by the prominent Swiss-American ecclesiastical architect Franz Joseph Untersee, the classically designed chapel was built of stone from the Vermont Marble Company of Proctor, Vermont. The structure has bronze entry gates and a painted copper roof. The interior of the chapel has had some conservation issues, as the marble-covered walls have been failing and pieces have been falling onto the altar and floor of the chapel.
What makes this chapel so amazing is that it one of only a handful of Guastavino domes left in Massachusetts. Rafael Guastavino was a successful architect and builder in Spain when he immigrated to America in 1881 with his young son, Rafael Jr. In 1885 Guastavino Sr. patented a type of structural tiling in the U.S. called the “Tile Arch System”, in which interlocking terra cotta tiles and layers of Portland cement combined to create self-supporting arches and domes. The Guastavino Fireproof Company was founded in 1889 and was responsible for designing the tile ceilings of many historic landmarks, including the Boston Public Library, two Vanderbilt family estates, and the ceiling of the Registry Hall on Ellis Island. They are also responsible for designing dome at the Grace Universalist Church (1896) in Lowell, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.

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