Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Greenlawn Abbey


Written and Photography by
Andrew Livelsberger


The final resting place for some famous local and national figures, a dedicated group of volunteers has taken to restoring this structure.

We had the special privilege of being able to meet with Janice Loebbaka, President of the Greenlawn Abbey Association.   She shared with us many interesting facts about the history of the Abbey.  I could tell from the way she showed us around to the passion and knowledge in her words, that there is a lot of care and dedication for this place.


Pictures of the Abbey before the restoration project was undertaken were shared as well.
The mausoleum had some severe roof leakage and required electrical overhauls on both levels.  The plaster ceilings were a total loss and needed to be removed and replaced, one floor even had stalactite-like formations.  when it rained, there were sections of walls that looked like there were part of those now popular fountain walls.


Despite all that, they are doing a fantastic job getting the Abbey back to close to original condition.  Working tirelessly, they are restoring as much of the original vents, stained glass, marble features as possible.  The images were share here are going to convey the fruits of all that hard labor.


We asked about the ongoing future of the Abbey and were told that the intention is to get the building back to a fully functioning mausoleum, but also to keep the grounds “alive” by having events and fundraisers there.  The idea is to not think of it as just a final resting place, but as a place to remember to celebrate life.


There are many fundraising events on the Abbey grounds every year, including “Gatsby Goes To The Abbey” event, movie nights, and a magic show in honor of one of the Abbeys residents,  Howard Thurston the Magician.


Thurston the Magician is not the only resident of note, among others are:
  • Brother of J.C. Penney, H.R. Penney
  • George Karb - Franklin County Commissioner and 5 time Columbus Mayor
  • Edward and Rollin Swisher of the Swisher cigar company fame
  • Lewis Sells family, who owned the 2nd largest travelling circus in the country at the turn of the century.

We highly recommend that you visit the Greenlawn Abbey website and participate in their fundraising events or just simply donate to their 501.3(c) organization.  The work they are doing is absolutely top notch and restoring and keeping this structure in working order is great for the city as well as future generations.  They don’t make buildings like this anymore and with the proper maintenance that the volunteers there are doing it will last for many more - they just need our help to keep it going!

The Abbey is located at 700 Greenlawn Avenue, Columbus, OH.