Brainerd Jones Designed For The Living As Well As For The Departed

Submitted by krinehart on January 16, 2013 - 3:01pm
Kerrison Vault at the Cypress Hill Memorial Park, Petaluma, CA. Photo taken January 10, 2013 by Katherine J. Rinehart


Petaluma architect Brainerd Jones’s career spanned over 40 years from the time he opened his office on Main Street in what was then called the Tann Building, until his death in 1945. Like his contemporaries, Jones was adept at many different designs and prepared plans for a variety of building types ranging from libraries, schools, banks, churches, fraternal halls, commercial structures, fire stations, post offices, residences and more. Examples of Jones’s work can be found throughout Petaluma, as well as in other parts of Sonoma and Marin Counties, but many may not be familiar with his work at Cypress Hill Memorial Park where the Kerrison family vault is located. Alfred Kerrison (1868-1917), a Penngrove pioneer, specified in his will that his executor was to erect a re-enforced concrete vault, walls of suitable thickness and strength that were to be lined with tiling or marble, and to contain receptacles for at least seven caskets. According to a Petaluma Argusnewspaper article, Brainerd Jones was hired to design the tomb in 1918. The Egyptian style was likely chosen by Kerrison prior to his passing.

E.W.M. Evans standing outside his shop located on the grounds of the Cypress Hill Cemetery circa 1928. Photo courtesy of Alyne Evans Anderson.


E.W. M. Evans was the contractor and stone mason, while Robert Schlunegger did the concrete work. Construction of the tomb required hundreds of pounds of steel were to reinforce the structure so that it would be earthquake proof. The building was to be finished in a rich cream tint, but after being fully “occupied” the whole structure was to be veneered with granite and every opening sealed. The interior of the tomb is described as being finished in heavy panels of rich Alaskan marble while the floor was tile. A stained glass window was installed on the west side of the tomb as was a bronze door which was removed many years ago by descendants of the Kerrison family. Concrete now seals the tomb and it does not appear as if a granite veneer was ever applied. The last person to be entombed in the vault was Alfred Kerrison's sister-in-law, Sarah Risk Kerrison (1867-1951). To learn more about the Kerrison Family please see The Kerrison Family of Vallejo Township by Moria Gardner available at the Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library. The Kerrison tomb is not the only Brainerd Jones design to be found at Cypress Hill. Stay tuned for more on this subject!  

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Hi Gregg - it's on the list. A fun book to check in the meantime if you like cemeteries is Stories in Stone : A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography written and photographed by Douglas Keister. Don't know of any other architects who did work at the cemetery. EWM Evans, stone mason did a lot of the work you see at Cypress Hill.

Fascinating, Katherine! Do I see a Petaluma cemetery tour/book in the future?? Are any works by other prominent architects (who built homes/buildings in Petaluma, such as Julia Morgan) represented there?

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