Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery

Missing image
Gates of Forest Lawn

Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California is the original Forest Lawn. (see also Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery)

Forest Lawn was founded in 1917 by Dr. Hubert Eaton on the grounds of a 1913 cemetery. Eaton was a firm believer in a joyous life after death, who was convinced that most cemeteries were "unsightly, depressing stoneyards," and pledged to create one that would reflect his optimistic beliefs, "as unlike other cemeteries as sunshine is unlike darkness". He envisioned Forest Lawn to be "a great park devoid of misshapen monuments and other signs of earthly death, but filled with towering trees, sweeping lawns, splashing fountains, beautiful statuary, architecture..." A number of plaques which apparently state Eaton's intentions are signed "The Builder."

Most of its burial plots have evocative names, including Eventide, Babyland (for infants, shaped like a heart), Graceland, Inspiration Slope, Slumberland (for children and adolescents), Sweet Memories, Vesperland, Borderland (on the edge of the cemetery), and Dawn of Tomorrow. Packages for burial range along a wide spectrum of prices: cremation urns, for example, range from those with names like "The Olympus" costing in the tens of thousands of dollars, down to the more lowly "The Plastic Container" and "The Steel Box" which cost less than a hundred dollars.

The cemetery contains a number of reproductions of works of art in various locations (many statues around the cemetery are listed as being available for purchase for use near a tombstone). Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper has been recreated in stained glass in the Court of Honour ‘in vibrant, glowing and indestructible colors.’ There are also a number of full-sized reproductions of other Renaissance sculptures, including Michelangelo's David and Moses. There are three non-sectarian chapels, ‘The Little Church of the Flowers,’ ‘The Wee Kirk o’ the Heather’ and ‘The Church of the Recessional’. Over 60,000 people have actually been married here (including Ronald Reagan, who wed Jane Wyman at the ‘Wee Kirk o' the Heather’ in 1940). Regis Philbin was also married at Forest Lawn. A quarter of a million people are buried at Forest Lawn; there are over a million visitors each year including thousands of local schoolchildren on field trips.

Some of the inspiration at Forest Lawn is patriotic rather than pious, such as the Court of Freedom, with its large mosaic of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence, and a 13 ft (4 m) high statue of George Washington. The Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery is a second park solely dedicated to the preservation of American history.

The main gates of Forest Lawn - Glendale (above, right), claimed to be the world's largest wrought-iron gates, are located at 1712 S. Glendale Avenue, Glendale, California.

Forest Lawn's 300 acres (1.2 km&sup2) of intensely landscaped grounds and thematic sculpture were the inspiration for the biting commentary of Evelyn Waugh's satirical novel The Loved One, and Jessica Mitford's acerbic The American Way of Death. Many commentators have considered Forest Lawn to be a unique American creation, and perhaps a uniquely maudlin Los Angeles creation, with its "theme park" approach to death.

Among those interred or entombed in the cemetery are a number of important personalities, famous persons, including men and women from the entertainment industry, et cetera, and their relatives. Some final resting places, such as those of Humphrey Bogart and Mary Pickford, are secluded in private gated gardens, with no entry for the public. A number of tombs are also kept from the public eye. The Court of Honour advertises that in some of the crypts beneath it are spots which no amount of money can buy, but individuals may be "voted in" as "Immortals."

Perhaps due to the number of high-profile names on many of the grave markers, the management of Forest Lawn is, to quote Big Secrets author William Poundstone, "circumspect with a vengeance." Excavated earth from fresh graves is covered with AstroTurf, lest anyone get the idea that the dead are interred in ordinary dirt; no photographs taken at Forest Lawn are ever allowed to be published; and the information office usually refuses to say where famous people are buried.

List of those buried at Forest Lawn

(Note that this is a very partial list. Those in non-public areas are marked †.)

Use the following alphabetical links to find someone.

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