The Lakewood Memorial Chapel
The Memorial Chapel at Lakewood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as the architectural focal point of the cemetery. The building was designed by prominent Minneapolis architect Harry Wild Jones and was modeled after the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.
The chapel interior was created by New York designer Charles Lamb and many consider it the most perfect example of Byzantine mosaic art in the United States. In 1909, Lamb traveled to Rome to enlist the services of six highly accomplished mosaic artists who had just recently completed a project in the Vatican. The artists created more than 10 million mosaic pieces, called tessellae, from marble, colored stone, and glass fused with gold and silver. The artists then traveled to Minneapolis to assemble the work inside the chapel. Upon its completion in 1910, the Lakewood Memorial chapel was the only building in the country with an authentic mosaic interior.
The chapel dome is 65 feet high and ringed with stained-glass windows that serve as a sundial telling the time of day and season. Four large mosaic figures representing Love, Hope, Faith and Memory are situated on the side walls below the dome. The figures were based on paintings by Lamb’s wife, Ella Condie Lamb, a noted portrait artist of her time.
In 1996, Lakewood embarked on a year-long project of renovating the chapel. Under the guidance of architect Jim W. Miller, AIA, new lighting and heating systems were installed, a new crematory was built in the lower level, and the front entrance was landscaped.
Part of Miller’s task was undoing alterations made over the century, such as attempts to darken the interior with yellow paper over the stained-glass windows and a brown carpet over the marble floor. To remain true to the original architect’s and designer’s intentions, Miller studied letters exchanged among Jones, Lamb and the Lakewood Cemetery Building Committee.
Call or visit Lakewood’s Administration Building (first building when you enter the front gates) and ask Lakewood staff if they are able to open the chapel for you. While there, pick up a complimentary copy of the chapel tour guide (PDF) and visit the exhibit “Lakewood Memorial Chapel: 1910 to Today” in the lower level.