Beginning August 9th, Evergreen Washelli will undergo the removal and improvement of the roof of Washelli Columbarium. The process will take from one to three weeks. The columbarium is located on the east side of Aurora Avenue. Built in 1920, it was owned by the American Necropolis Corporation and known as the Washelli Columbarium.
Evergreen Cemetery and Washelli Cemetery merged in 1928, and in a series of mergers, the Washelli Columbarium became part of Evergreen-Washelli. From the beginning, this building was to be a monument to beauty, elegance, and according to the first written Washelli Columbarium brochure, had an environment that “provides seclusion for peaceful recollection.” The exterior was a beautiful cream white terra cotta and the building had two magnificent columns in front. The entrance walkway was beautifully maintained, and the building was surrounded by well kept up lawns, flowers, and shrubbery.
When the original building was constructed, Aurora Avenue was called the North Trunk Highway, and the mailing address was Rural Route 13. The North Trunk Highway was made of red brick. The original building had a beautiful reception room for people entering the building. The reception room had extremely high ceilings that were hand painted with beautiful pastoral etchings. Today, that reception room is still functional and has been updated with the addition of a domed skylight.
Washelli Crematory has been doing cremations since the early 1920s and the Indoor Columbarium was the largest in all of the Pacific Northwest. Washelli Columbarium is one of the oldest on the West Coast, second only to the one in San Francisco.
In the 1920s, cremation was the choice of many Seattle families. Families would sometimes have the cremated remains placed in a grave; however, more often than not they would take them home since there was nowhere else to put them. It became evident to cemeterians of that time that what people wanted was an indoor facility to inurn their loved ones. As our first brochure said, “heretofore this had not been possible in Seattle, there being no permanent building erected for this purpose.”
Within the walls of the Bronze Room are inurned family members of many of the founding families of Seattle, such as the Denny Party, one of the best known restaurant owners of Seattle, Ben Paris, and baseball announcer legend Leo “The Voice” Lassen. The Fey family was a wealthy family from Renton, who owned numerous theaters in the Renton area. They purchased a niche in Palm Cove with future heritage in mind. Ben Fey, the father, was placed in the niche first. Over the years, six other urns have been placed in the niche, the latest one being in 1982.
Indoor columbaria are a beautiful and convenient option for memorialization. The setting in a columbarium is serene, prestigious, and comfortable, a nice reprieve from the elements. This ensures a reflective and peaceful visiting environment. Many people prefer indoor inurnment in a columbarium as opposed to outdoor inurnment based on their personal preferences. Contributing factors to this include weather, privacy, heritage, and comfort.
The weather is a major determination on the quality of your visit to memorialize a loved one. Therefore, the location of the resting-place becomes a consideration, especially in a city like Seattle. Indoor inurnment allows for the privacy of paying your respects in a columbarium cove, as opposed to outdoors, among a number of other markers in close proximity. Many families will choose a cluster of niches in a columbarium to maintain the final resting place of their relatives in one location. Indoor columbarium visits are preferable to many of our visitors, as walking on hilly or wet terrain is often tedious and difficult.
We have always encouraged people to use urns that are personal, unique, and respectful of the purpose that they are intended to fulfill. Feature niches allow for a family to customize a niche by placing personal items, larger decorative urns, or multiple family members in the same spot. The first Feature Niche was used by Harold Raver in 1980, and besides having his cremated remains, a magnificent porcelain eagle was placed in with him by his family.
A columbarium allows for many options to memorialize even if the remains are elsewhere. If a family wishes to commemorate a loved one, but has also chosen to scatter the remains, or if the remains are unavailable for an inurnment, a cenotaph is a perfect way to select a location where the person is honored, perhaps with an epitaph, statue, personal item, or plaque.