Washington DC FEB 15 |
I decided that I needed to give you an update on the progress into researching the Remeum and its accompanying back-story regarding its architect & builder, Mason Remey.
Now, I'm going to state that the following is a journalistic "This is what we know" essay, from which I need to caution the reader that my staff & I are still in the process of establishing facts, in some cases credibility of the source(s), and overall authenticity of materials that were presented as factual.
As I'm sure that Carl, Jewel, Darkstar, Sculler, and the others have pretty much figured out, this story has multiple levels of intrigue, mystery, murder, sexual misconduct, outright fabrications, and deep historical ties to some of the most prominent citizens of not only the United States, but the high society of pre-war Europe and to a lesser degree after the war.
What is most fascinating to those of us that are chasing the story is the many related "6 degrees of separation" Mason Remey had as he clung to the dream of building this monument/tomb/cenotaph to celebrate & honour his family and himself.
Here's what we know:
1.) Based on conversations with a retired construction foreman who was employed by the Shirley Contracting Company based on Cinderbed road in Newington, we have been able to ascertain that the Remeum's main portion located underground was simply buried and graded over in 1983. Shirley Contracting apparently paid to have a demolitions expert examine the structure who reported back that had Shirley and the Pohick Church proceeded with a conventional demolition/leveling- filling in the resultant crater and depression would have been cost prohibitive as it would have required considerable cubic yards of backfill that would have had to have been trucked in.
Instead, according to our source, Shirley simply regraded the rubble from previous efforts in 1972, and 1976, and then added a few dump-truck loads amounting to several 100 cubic yards, creating the current topography that one finds today. He said that a surveyor was hired to specifically to execute the construction layout to set the proper cuts and regrading.
He was able to tell us that the surveyor was a local man named LeRoy deBruin, a resident of West Springfield who owned his own survey outfit. Unfortunately, Mr. deBruin passed away nearly 20 years ago and is buried at the National Cemetery at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. It would have been nice to interview him as he would have been able to describe from an expert's point of view what the site looked like and some of the details.
Shirley used the same type of equipment that is customarily used for their road construction and VDOT contracts and as a result, the job was accomplished over a 2 day period with only minor adjustments being needed later.
Now, he did indicate that Shirley sent their demo expert into the Remeum to examine it throughly. He said that the man later told him that he had to "wade" through empty beer cans, soda cans, broken bottles, concrete, bits of statuary, and what appeared to be broken friezes. He also remembered the demo guy saying that he was astonished at how large the structure was. Key point, this meant and the retired contracting foreman verified that the demolitions expert had to break through the cinderblocks & dirt plugs to examine the rest of the structure.
He said the man was from an outfit based in Baltimore, Maryland, but couldn't provide any other details.
Now, here's the letdown. Shirley was sold to Clark construction a while ago and sadly, outside of payroll, and some VDOT projects, there are no corporate records left to establish the veracity of the claims. Having said that, the details the source did provide were enough to establish credibility as he had no interest in the story outside of remembering that it was a quick project, and the fact that at the request of the church officials, the obelisk was to remain standing and not be destroyed.
When I asked him about the vent chimneys, he pointed out that the two vents were outside of the surveyed area to be regraded and judging from the heavy brush and undergrowth, they in fact may not have been all that visible.
I showed him aerials taken in 1958, 1972, and more recently in 2001, he graciously pointed out where the topography had changed due to the regrading of the site by Shirley along with the previous demolition efforts. All of the aerials taken in 2010 and 2009, the site is obscured by tree and brush cover so its nearly impossible to tell where the site was.
2.) Now, I have been asked to identify the two central questions regarding Mason's Remeum and its ultimate fate.
Why did he build it in the 1st place?
Why did he simply walk away from it?
Here's what we know. ALL of this intriguing tale revolves around Mason's involvement in the Baha'i religion/faith. I can say with absolute authority that because of this factor in his life, it set the course for virtually everything else to follow.
Mason Remey was the family black sheep because of his adherence/adoption of the Bah'i faith. I think that based on that alone was the motivation for him to build this place to show his commitment to his family.
Coupled with that was the fact, verified, Mason Remey had a monstrous ego. He absolutely lived his life as a damn near "epic" figure, or as one might snark snidely, "a legend in his own mind." It was this sense of "self-importance" that drove him to create this monument.
The second half was why then, would he walk away from it? The truth lies in the conflict within the Baha'i faith that happened after the 1957 death of its spiritual leader who had at one point a six years earlier appointed Remey to a position that would have likely led to Remey's accession to leading the faith as he was very much a critical and key player in the religion.
Through a series of ugly political maneuvering and internecine struggles, Remey lost the opportunity to lead the faith and in fact became a shunned and disparaged outcast of the Baha'i faith.
By the time he died in 1974, he had become a tragic figure, outcast by the very faith that he had helped nurture and build on a global basis, his reputation that of a blasphemer.
Concurrently with the struggles that began in 1957, Remey also was entangled in a fight that would take nearly 11 years to resolve with the Pohick Church over his proposed expansion. Then there was the increasing incidents of vandalism partly encouraged by the mere fact that the church wanted nothing to do with Remey's grandiose memorial especially with the Baha'i elements.
Finally, in 1957, Mason Remey was 82 years old.
So, there's an update, obviously folks there is so much more to the story, and I'll keep updating as we go along.
Please feel free to keep those e-mails flowing, and I promise I shall try to publish more frequently as my regular workload permits.