The generation that brought us the McMansion is now reviving the McMausoleum. As more boomers contemplate their final years, some are spending sums of $1 million or more to buy or build spacious resting places in exclusive historic graveyards, as Stefanos Chen of The Wall Street Journal reports this week. The result, says Chen: An eruption of bungalow-sized luxury tombs, flanked by colorful statuary (think roller skates and Fender Stratocasters) in memorial parks previously known for their grim sobriety…
For Americans, big spending on burial today is more an issue of location, location, location. Older cemeteries that already host the remains of prominent people are able to command premium prices for their dwindling supply of plots. Ray Brandt, a 66-year-old attorney, talks with Chen about his $1.1 million mausoleum in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans—where the plot alone can cost $250,000. How do you get from there to seven figures? For starters, the lot is bigger than any New York City apartment I ever lived in, at 1,024 square feet, with resting space for 12. “There will be two sets of bronze doors, one of which will open to a back patio with picnic-style furniture and a view of a lagoon,” explains Chen. “I guess it’s the last house I’ll buy,” says Brandt.
Even boomers with smaller budgets are influencing the look and layout of cemeteries. In the Hollywood Forever cemetery in Los Angeles, one of the most common requests is to be buried near the grave of Johnny Ramone (born John Cummings), whose plot features a bust of the late punk rocker wailing on his guitar. (Ramone, who passed away in 2004, isn’t actually buried there yet, but the cemetery says his ashes will be moved there along with his wife’s after she dies.) Those who can’t be near such monument statuary are increasingly asking for equally distinctive décor, Chen reports, custom-ordering, say, a bust of a Greek warrior or a frieze of flamenco dancers.
1. I think this is a convenient story-line: boomers who like McMansions also like big burial sites. While there is an attempt in the second paragraph of the story to suggest other American generations have also liked big plots, the hook to the story is that the boomers spend excessively.
2. There is little to no data in this story suggesting there is a real uptick in the sales of these large plots.
3. Does this mean that even more than ever those with money to purchase such monuments will be remembered much more than people who choose cremation?
4. This story hints at another issue: historic cemeteries are running out of space. This means they can drive up the asking price but does it also mean they are very nearly “dead” institutions? With the rise of cremations, is there a glut of space in newer cemeteries or on the whole are cemeteries slowly easing out of existence?