Portland’s largest mausoleum is opening its doors for special public viewing Memorial Day weekend. The Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial Funeral Home in Sellwood is the final resting place of more than 97,000 people and home to the extraordinary Rae Room.
During Memorial Day weekend, you get the rare opportunity to step inside the mausoleum and visit one special tomb to die for.
Tour Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial Mausoleum Memorial Day Weekend
This weekend, Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial Mausoleum is open to the public Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Monday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
The century-old mausoleum at the funeral home takes up three city blocks with nine miles of corridors. Inside are marvelous stained glass windows, a replica marble statue of Michelangelo’s “La Pieta” and three foundations that cascade down multiple floors.
As the building expanded, each addition has become a time capsule for the era, from Neo-Mediterranean art deco style in the main building to early 20th century Tiffany glasswork to 1970s hand-carved German woodwork.
You can see all of this Saturday-Monday during the holiday weekend.
The Rae Room
Monday, May 30, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. is your only chance to visit a the Rae Room this year. Just once a year, the Rae family allows the public to see inside the lavish tomb.
The Rae Room offers impressive examples of the finest in craftsmanship and materials, including marble, bronze, plaster carvings and stained glass. To recreate the 15′ by 15′ tomb today, which was built in the 1920s, the costs would exceed $1 million.
Here’s the story behind the tomb’s inhabitants, George and Elizabeth Rae:
History of George and Elizabeth Rae
George was born in Scotland in 1843 and emigrated to the United States in 1869, coincidentally the year that Elizabeth Maxwell, his second wife, was born. In 1875, George married a woman named Charlotte Crawford and later they adopted a daughter, Maud. They moved to Portland and in 1890 George joined three other men in founding the Inman-Poulsen Lumber Co.
The busy sawmill made George a rich man, especially after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, when the mill operated 22 hours a day to furnish wood for the rebuilding of the demolished city to the south. George chose to retire later that year. Inman-Poulsen operated until 1954, when it was purchased by Georgia-Pacific Lumber Co.
Charlotte fell ill and, declared insane, was committed to the state mental hospital. She died there in January 1914. Just 10 months later George married Elizabeth Maxwell, his housekeeper. George and his daughter, Maud, had become estranged during Charlotte’s hospitalization, perhaps because of George’s frequent and indiscreet travels with his housekeeper. Maud and her husband moved to France and had no dealings with George.
That changed after George’s death in 1918. Although George had disinherited Maud and left the bulk of his estate to Elizabeth, Maud’s challenge of George’s will was tied up in Multnomah County Circuit Court for years, with the trial providing early Portlanders with lots of juicy gossip. After the judge ruled in Elizabeth’s favor, the case was finally dismissed in January 1923.
With George’s fortune safely in Elizabeth’s hands, what did she do? If you visit the Rae Room on Memorial Day you’ll see how she spent a lot of the money. And when she died in 1942 she was entombed in the second hand-carved marble sarcophagus, at the side of her beloved husband, George.
Memorial Day Activities
Along with viewing the Rae Room on Monday, Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial is giving out free hot dogs all day. There’s a service at 1 p.m. with a marching band, Navy Chaplin, color guard, bagpipers, and Camp Withycombe military personnel.
The mausoleum is open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Monday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. This event is free to the public.
The funeral home is located at 6705 SE 14th Ave. in Portland. For more information on the event and parking options nearby, visit Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial’s website.
More events happening Memorial Day weekend: