Friday, September 29, 2017

Bendel Family Memorial

We gave a tour of SEAA to two donors last week, and judging from their reactions, the highlight was the presentation model (above) for the memorial/tomb for the family of Henri Bendel, including his father, William Bendel, step-father, Benjamin Falk, and his mother Mary Plonsky Bendel Falk, at Menachim Aveilim Cemetery (formerly Jewish Cemetery and Hebrew Rest Cemetery) in Lafayette, Louisiana. The model is part of our Albert Weiblen Marble & Granite Co. Office Records, which include construction drawings, beautiful watercolor presentation renderings, models, and other records. The Weiblen Company designed and built tombs and other funereal projects, public monuments, and also supplied stone work for buildings. Many of the tombs of New Orleans' Gilded Age in Metairie Cemetery were created by the Albert Weiblen Marble & Granite Company.

The memorial was commissioned by Henri Bendel in 1918, built by the Weiblen Company and designed by Weiblen architect, Charles L. Lawhon. The memorial contains catacombs in the rear of the structure, and is made of Dorian Gray Granite, with figures of Italian bronze. The model is made of concrete, with plaster figures encased in copper foil. Weiblen also installed additional headstones, and created a plan for the Bendel family plot at the cemetery.

Henri Willis Bendel (1868-1936) was born in Vermilionville, Louisiana. His father died when he was six years old. His mother ran several businesses, until she married Benjamin Falk in 1878. The couple operated a successful dry goods store and Falk's Opera House in Lafayette, Louisiana. Henri married Blanche Lehman in 1894, and established a millinery shop in Morgan City, Louisiana. After the shop was destroyed by fire, Henri and Blanche relocated to New York City, where Henri worked for the department store B. Altman & Co. After Blanche died shortly after, he established a millinery shop, eventually adding custom dresses and imported fashions from Paris. This evolved into the iconic store, Henri Bendel, which still operates in New York and several other U.S. cities. Bendel's was reputedly the first U.S. store to offer clothes by Chanel.

Top image: Bendel Memorial model, K. Williams.
Bottom images: Drawings from Albert Weilben Marble & Granite Co. Office Records, SEAA.

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