If you’re a fan of weird, funky architecture, you’ve probably heard of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or the Bubble Palace in Cannes. But have you heard of the Sytsema Lee Chapel in Muskegon, Michigan? If not, buckle up – we’re about to take a wild ride exploring the eccentricities of this lesser-known architectural gem.
The Sytsema Lee Chapel is a funeral home and cremation service located in Muskegon, Michigan. It was designed by architect Alfred Bosworth and built in 1941. According to their website, they offer “the most beautiful and elegant setting available in Michigan” for funerals and memorials. But let’s be real – what we’re really interested in is the building itself.
If you’re driving down Apple Avenue in Muskegon, you might just miss the Sytsema Lee Chapel if you’re not paying attention. That is to say, it’s not exactly a towering skyscraper that dominates the skyline. But once you do spot it, you’ll know you’re in for something special.
The building is a mish-mash of architectural styles that somehow manages to work together in a delightfully whimsical way. There are arched doorways, pitched roofs, columns, and even a bell tower – all in one building. The exterior is painted a cheery shade of yellow, and there are ornamental touches like floral patterns and iron grilles on the windows.
As the Sytsema Lee Chapel website puts it, the building is “a masterpiece of whimsy, designed to put a smile on your face.” And honestly, they’re not wrong.
The interior of the Sytsema Lee Chapel is just as quirky as the outside, if not more so. The main chapel area combines elements of Gothic architecture with Art Deco touches. There are soaring ceilings held up by arches, stained glass windows, and even a plaster carving of the Last Supper above the altar.
But what really sets the interior apart are the weird little details. For example:
- There are plaster cherubs and other angelic figures dotted around the chapel, some of which are kind of… creepy looking.
- The pillars holding up the ceiling are adorned with intricate plasterwork that looks like something out of a fairy tale.
- There is a balcony area with wrought-iron railings that overlooks the main chapel space. According to local legend, this balcony was used during prohibition as a lookout point for bootleggers smuggling alcohol into the building.
So, why did a funeral home end up being designed like a fairy tale castle? The answer lies in the building’s history.
The Sytsema Lee Chapel was originally built as a private estate for a wealthy businessman named John McGraft. He spared no expense in the design and construction of the building, which was intended to be a showpiece for his wealth and status.
However, tragedy struck in the form of World War II. McGraft’s son was killed in action, and McGraft himself committed suicide soon after. The building changed hands a few times before eventually being transformed into the funeral home we know today.
Fortunately, the new owners had the good sense to preserve the building’s unique features instead of trying to strip it of its personality.
So, what can we learn from the Sytsema Lee Chapel? For starters, it’s a reminder that sometimes the most interesting, beautiful things are the ones that don’t quite fit in with the rest of their surroundings. The Sytsema Lee Chapel stands out in Muskegon in the best possible way.
It’s also a testament to the power of architecture to evoke emotion and tell a story. The Sytsema Lee Chapel is a physical manifestation of John McGraft’s desire to showcase his wealth and standing, as well as the tragedies that befell him and his family.
And finally, it’s just freaking cool. I mean, look at it.
Conclusion: Visit Sytsema Lee Chapel Today
If you’re ever in Muskegon, Michigan, do yourself a favor and stop by the Sytsema Lee Chapel. It’s not every day that you get to see a funeral home that looks like it was plucked straight out of a fairy tale.
In the words of the Sytsema Lee Chapel website, “We know you won’t find anything quite like it anywhere else.” Truer words have never been spoken.
Helpful Table: Favourite Quirky Buildings
|Building Name||Location||Architect||Quirkiness Level|
|Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia||Barcelona, Spain||Antoni Gaudi||Extremely Quirky|
|The Bubble Palace||Cannes, France||Antti Lovag||Very Quirky|
|The Crooked House||Sopot, Poland||Szotyńscy & Zaleski||Moderately Quirky|
|The Dancing House||Prague, Czech Republic||Vlado Milunić & Frank Gehry||Mildly Quirky|
|Sytsema Lee Chapel||Muskegon, Michigan||Alfred Bosworth||Off the Quirkiness Charts|
- “Sytsema Funeral Homes: History.” Sytsema Funeral Homes, www.sytsemafh.com/history/.
- “Sytsema Funeral & Cremation Services – Lee Chapel.” Sytsema Funeral Homes, www.sytsemafh.com/our-locations/lee-chapel/.
- “Visit Muskegon | Explore.” Visit Muskegon, visitmuskegon.org/explore/.