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Preserved

A Cultural History of the Funeral Home in America

Dean G. Lampros

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A spirited look at how funeral homes impacted American consumerism, the built environment, and national identities.

Funeral homes—those grand, aging mansions repurposed into spaces for embalming, merchandising, funeral services, and housing for the funeral director and their family—are immediately recognizable features of the American landscape, and yet the history of how these spaces emerged remains largely untold. In Preserved, Dean Lampros uses the history of this uniquely American architectural icon to explore the twentieth century's expanding consumer landscape and reveal how buildings can...

A spirited look at how funeral homes impacted American consumerism, the built environment, and national identities.

Funeral homes—those grand, aging mansions repurposed into spaces for embalming, merchandising, funeral services, and housing for the funeral director and their family—are immediately recognizable features of the American landscape, and yet the history of how these spaces emerged remains largely untold. In Preserved, Dean Lampros uses the history of this uniquely American architectural icon to explore the twentieth century's expanding consumer landscape and reveal how buildings can help construct identities.

Across the United States, Lampros traces the funeral industry's early twentieth-century exodus from gloomy downtown undertaking parlors to outmoded Victorian houses in residential districts. As savvy retailers and accidental preservationists, funeral directors refashioned the interiors into sumptuous retail settings that stimulated consumer demand for luxury burial goods. These spaces allowed for more privacy and more parking, and they helped turn Americans away from traditional home funerals toward funeral homes instead. Moreover, by moving into neighborhoods that were once the domain of white elites, African American funeral directors uplifted their industry and altered the landscape of white supremacy.

The funeral home has tracked major changes in American culture, including an increased reliance on the automobile and the rise of consumer culture. Preserved offers an in-depth cultural history of a space that is both instantly familiar and largely misunderstood.

Reviews

Reviews

Drawing on previously unexamined sources, Preserved offers startling insights on the history of American deathcare, city planning, and adapted Victorian mansions. A compelling analysis of ubiquitous but under-scrutinized buildings, this meticulously researched American studies volume will appeal to students, preservationists, scholars, and the general public.

Hiding in plain sight, the mansion adaptively used as a funeral home is a building typology that has been overlooked and understudied. With a sense of seriousness and a touch of humor, Dean Lampros studies these buildings to explain their role within the funeral industry, the historic preservation movement, and racial integration.

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Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
384
ISBN
9781421448404
Illustration Description
43 b&w photos, 6 line drawings
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Other Preservation
Part One: Shifting Spaces
1. Death Downtown: The Landscape of Deathcare before the Residential Funeral Home
2. A New Departure: From Downtown to

Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Other Preservation
Part One: Shifting Spaces
1. Death Downtown: The Landscape of Deathcare before the Residential Funeral Home
2. A New Departure: From Downtown to Residential Neighborhood
Part Two: Contested Landscapes
3. A Constant Reminder of Death: The Funeral Home as a Nuisance
4. A Higher Plane: The Funeral Home as a Symbolic Space
Part Three: A Delicate Balance
5. Luxurious Simplicity: The Funeral Home as a Retail Space
6. From Home Funeral to Funeral Home: The Funeral Home as a Ritual Space
Conclusion: Build Me No Stately Mansions
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio