Visiting the Brazzales | Moving to Portland, Oregon from Michigan almost 20 years ago was a leap of faith.
I had no job, no family, and no friends. Still, Portland felt right. Years after moving I discovered a family connection to the city through my maternal great-grandparents, Daniel and Marguerite Brazzale. They moved to Portland in the early 1940s and died in the city I now call home.
My great-grandparents are entombed in the Portland Memorial Mausoleum; a behemoth of a historical structure covering over 4 acres, spanning 8 floors and over 4 miles of corridors. 75,000 memorials in the form of bodies and cremated remains are interred in the Portland Memorial Mausoleum, and it was here that I went to discover more about the lives and deaths of my Portland roots; the Brazzales.
Over the past several years, I’ve visited the Mausoleum and the Brazzales numerous times. I am fascinated by the structure itself and by the emotions it stirs. I am intrigued by the way the structure mirrors American views on death and dying; mausoleums are a seemingly extreme attempt to stop the natural processes of decay. Granite tombs, sealed tightly against the years encased in a structure of steel and concrete thought to be so impervious that the Mausoleum was WWII bomb shelter. All of this, for what? For who?
In my visits to the Mausoleum I found myself drawn to the dichotomy of home like qualities of the spaces and the irony of entombment that has, across the decades, fallen into disrepair. The spaces are lavishly furnished, but with timeworn and decaying pieces. The sense of reverence is palpable, yet in all my visits, I only saw one person tending to a memorial. Through my images, I hope to capture vignettes of melancholic beauty that speak to memory and the unknown stories of family. www.heatherbinns.net