The Scandal at Wilhelm’s Mausoleum

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Last year I had the privilege of visiting Wilhem’s Memorial Mausoleum, the one day it’s open to the public: Memorial Day. You can read about my experience here, I have some tips to make your exploration top notch, but today we’ll delve into the most sought after site in the entire vast property.

George Rae came to the U.S. from Scotland in 1869, settling in Portland as Vice President of the Inman-Poulsen Lumber Company which was located where OMSI now stands. Many of Portland’s stately homes from the turn of the century are built with lumber from that mill, and it thrived after San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake, providing record breaking quantities of lumber for the city to rebuild. Needless to say, George Rae was once one of Oregon’s wealthiest men.

Charlotte and George married in 1875, and sadly “Lottie” as she was known to those closest to her, was eventually committed to a state insane asylum, after suffering mental breakdowns. If you’re familiar with views on mental health during this period, you know that phrase can encompass many states of emotion, often associated with what we now see as normal responses to stressful situations, but then, were simply a symptom of a troublesome, crazy female.

Lottie passed away in the asylum in January 1914, and George remarried eight months later, to his housekeeper, who was 26 years younger than the self made millionaire. Elizabeth and George married at new and fashionable Multnomah Hotel which is now an Embassy suites, and he executed a new will a month after the ceremony, disinheriting his estranged adopted daughter Maud and leaving nearly all the estate to Elizabeth.

George died in 1918, buried in a family plot in Portland Riverview Cemetary next to Lottie. Maud wasted no time contesting the will, making it all the way to the Oregon supreme court, claiming her adoptive father wasn’t of sound mind, and that Elizabeth was a prostitute. The trial was highly publicized in 1920, and finally dismissed in 1923, both parties coming to a settlement.

The wealthy widow, having only four years of marriage with her beloved George, wanted to be near him for eternity, the two left alone without scandal and heartache. So she began creation of the tomb, of marble and bronze, so beautifully European in material and craftsmanship, you’ll wonder how it’s possible you’re still in the most casual city on the west coast. Upon it’s completion she had his body exhumed and laid to rest in the marble tomb, joining him in 1942. The two sarcophagi seem to be what the room was built around, with sconces and wicker chairs in the corner, and a photo of the couple in a brass frame. At the base of a stained glass panel, she has displayed the words which perhaps embody her short but treasured time with George in mortal life:

“The End of a Perfect Day”

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