Board approves columbarium at Oxford cemetery

town_oxford_greenBy Errol Castens

Daily Journal

OXFORD – Some people are dying to have a place in Oxford.

As the city has grown, so have demands on the city cemetery. The roughly 30-acre property, bordered by 16th Street, Jefferson Avenue, a residential area and Bramlett Elementary School, has only a few hundred unsold plots.

The cemetery dates back to soon after the city’s founding in the 1830s and was donated to the city by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. Though officially named Oxford Memorial Cemetery, the property is still commonly called “St. Peter’s.”

The issue of crowding has been studied for several years.

“It’s public knowledge that St. Peter’s is getting crowded, and it’s also public knowledge that cremations are greatly on the increase in the United States,” Mayor Pat Patterson told aldermen in early 2013.

Aldermen last week approved an action that would extend the useful life of the cemetery, voting to build a columbarium that would provide above-ground niches that would accommodate more than 1,600 people’s cremains.

Public Works Director Bart Robinson presented a plan for a stone-and-brick structure with about 815 metal niches, each of which can accommodate two standard urns.

“It’s an above-ground, three-sided structure – all front-loaded niches with brick seating walls,” he said. “It’s designed so that small memorial services could be held in it.”

Robinson estimated the cost at $550,000. Letting the project for bid awaits only the Historic Preservation Commission’s approval of the design, which could be given at its May 13 meeting.

The columbarium will be built on the site of the current cemetery maintenance building.

“We hope to have the new maintenance building done the next few weeks,” Robinson said. “We could have the columbarium ready by fall.”

errol.castens@journalinc.com