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Montgomery, Alabama

Casket on the Steiner-Lobman Building

The whimsical construction on the roof has given rise to many a Montgomery myth about its contents.  

An anvil and a solemn stone statue of the goddess Athena add to the general graveyard feel, but no body resides in the looming casket perched atop the historic Steiner-Lobman building in Montgomery, Alabama—as far as anyone knows.

Dry food wholesalers Louis Steiner and Nathan Lobman first built the structure in 1891. The partners wanted their building to stand out among competing Montgomery businesses, so they chose Victorian-Italianate architecture, complete with rosettes, symmetrically spaced windows, and rope molding. The anvil was probably added as a homage to the goods sold by Teague Hardware, to whom half the building was sold. But why a casket?

For now, it’s a mystery, though some like to think the builders wanted an eternal view of Montgomery, in order to keep a continual watch on their business. While it’s certain that both Steiner and Lobman are buried elsewhere, someone else may very well be buried up there. The tamer explanation might be that the casket surrounds a water tower. That is the explanation listed in the National Register of Historic Places, to which the building was added nearly a century after it was built.

Know Before You Go

A parking lot is nearby, but you have to pay to get in. The ticket machine doesn't work half the time.

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planan
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