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Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery: Columbarium

Romulus, New York
Seneca County

Winner of 2012 AIA Rochester Design Excellence Award

The Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery (SVMC) is located on one of the most significant military sites in New York State's Finger Lakes Region. Part of 2,600 acres on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake, it was initially developed as a World War II Naval Training Station and later rededicated as a Korean War Era Air Force Basic Training Center.

The Cemetery itself is located on 162 acres in the southern part of the site.


The Veterans have received strong support from the State of New York, who helped secure funding to establish the Cemetery and legislation that transferred State land to Seneca County. The County has completed Phase I of the Master Plan which includes: initial Burial Sections, a Flag/Assembly Area and primary roads, the reconstruction of the original Guard House, the construction of a Committal Service Shelter, and the building shell restoration of the former Firehouse Building to serve as the future Cemetery Administration Building.

The next phase of the SVMC Master Plan includes the transformation of the former Power Plant Building into a Columbarium. A columbarium is an above grade structure that provides niches for the interment of urns containing cremated remains of the deceased. Each niche is designed to adorn an individualized engraved cover and to accommodate a veteran and their companion. The SVMC Columbarium will meet the Master Plan goal of accommodating over 1,600 niches.


The facility will provide an interior gathering space, an exterior reflecting pool, a niche locator kiosk, and public restrooms. The building's original concrete coal silo will serve as an elevator shaft and support a 60' high observation deck. From this vantage point visitors can view the entire Cemetery, Seneca Lake, and the surrounding countryside.


One of the main interior features is the existing heavy timber roof trusses. Tubular light wells, reminiscent of the former boiler stacks, will funnel light into the building's core. A natural and timeless palette of materials are proposed for the building's interior that include: slate floors, stone niches, wood railings and benches, and steel and wood structural elements.


The transformation of the building is a sustainable and sensitive adaptation of an existing structure that embodies the physical memory of the site's rich history.

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