Monday, January 9, 2023

Something About Egbert Ludovicus Viele

Grave accent.

A year or so ago (time flies on this blog, I swear), I asked readers where else – besides Egypt – they had seen statues of sphinxes.  Two such figures appear outside the mausoleum of J.K. Borkman in Saint Boniface's Cemetery in Duluth, Minnesota, as seen in The Dark Secret of Weatherend (1984):

At the top of a slight rise stood the Borkman mausoleum, a gloomy granite house with tiny slitlike windows.  Two marble sphinxes crouched in front of the mausoleum, and two Egyptian pillars with lotus capitals held up the massive carved cornice.

I have one answer for you on the where else.  Two sphinxes also guard the entrance to the pyramid-shaped mausoleum of Brigadier General Egbert Ludovicus Viele (1825-1902) at the United States Military Academy Post Cemetery at West Point.  Viele graduated from West Point in 1847 and served in the Mexican–American War soon after.

He received an appointment as State Engineer of New Jersey in 1855 with a commission to conduct a topographical survey of the state.  He also surveyed the area that would become Central Park in New York City.  Viele was appointed engineer-in-chief of Central Park in 1856 and engineer of Prospect Park in 1860.

After the Civil War began, Viele received a commission as Brigadier General in 1861.  He commanded forces on the Savannah River during the Siege of Fort Pulaski and was appointed Military Governor of Norfolk, Virginia, in 1862.  He resigned from service in 1863 to again engage in civil engineering.  From 1883 to 1884, he was the commissioner of parks for New York City.

One interesting note is that Viele feared being buried alive and had a buzzer installed in his coffin.  The wire led to the West Point Superintendent's office to assist if Viele had been accidentally buried alive.

Not sure what sparked the desire for such an ornate mausoleum, though.

No comments: