Cranston taking steps to address blighted mausoleum

West Bay

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — For the first time in years, the Roger Williams Park Mausoleum is getting attention from someone other than trespassers and vandals.

On Wednesday, Cranston Department of Public Works employees were cleaning up the property and posting no-trespassing signs in an effort to protect the condemned building and the hundreds of people still interred inside.

“The bottom line is we want to get this cleaned out today and start the process of sealing it up so nobody can go in,” Mayor Ken Hopkins told 12 News.

The mausoleum’s owners died in 2003 and nine years later it was officially declared abandoned. Since then, it’s been broken into numerous times (most recently on Halloween night) and sustained damage from both vandals and the ravages of time.

“Basically, nobody owns it,” Hopkins said of the mausoleum. “We’ve checked with our legal team, we then went and met with the governor’s office on two occasions to try to find out who owns it, what can we do to it, what are the liabilities … and I think our responsibility at this point is public safety, and we’re just going to close it up.”

The city plans to block off the windows with cinder blocks to deter intruders, the mayor said, adding that Cranston police will be in charge of enforcing the no-trespassing rules.

“Now we have a legal arm to be able to take anybody that goes into the building. They’ll be subject to fines and punishment,” Hopkins said.

12 News was there in 2019 when some of the bodies were moved to the Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery, but there are still an estimated 400 inside.

“We’re going all the way back into the 1800s, at the time this was built,” Hopkins added. “This was a very expensive place. These aren’t paupers buried here, they were very wealthy, dignified people in the community. Out of respect for them, we want to do things the right way.”

The goal, according to Hopkins, is to relocate the remaining bodies so they can eventually demolish the building. He said cemeteries in Cumberland and Tiverton have already expressed interest.

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