CityDig: The Glendale Graveyard That’s Anything but Spooky

Not feeling the macabre this Halloween? This map of Forest Lawn Memorial Park couldn’t be more cheerful
Pictorial Map of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Forest Lawn Memorial Park c. 1950
Pictorial Map of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Forest Lawn Memorial Park c. 1950

View a larger map

Halloween is almost upon us with its hordes of costumed millennials lining up for haunted houses and horror mazes. To celebrate the season cartographically, we present a map of one of the world’s most famous cemeteries. In the days when the grandparents of our young Halloween aficionados walked the earth, Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale was ahead of the curve in making death seem serene and picturesque. This map of the old cemetery was created shortly after World War II. The grounds are divided into burial neighborhoods with euphemistic titles like “Slumberland,” “Rest Haven,” “Sweet Memories,” “Kindly Light,” and “Inspiration Slope.” For infants, there is “Lullabyland” in the shape of a mother’s heart, and veterans of the recent war were laid to rest in the “Victory Section.”

Founded in 1906 by a consortium of businessmen from San Francisco, Forest Lawn began as an ordinary 300-acre cemetery. When Hubert Eaton took over as manager in 1917, though, everything changed. Eaton penned “The Builder’s Creed,” which stated his goals to create “a great park devoid of misshapen monuments and other customary signs of earthly death but filled with towering trees, sweeping lawns, splashing fountains, singing birds, beautiful statuary, [and] cheerful flowers.” Eaton’s cemetery would be dotted with uplifting art, impressive architecture, and tranquil scenes of nature instead of somber gravestones.

Eaton headed off to Europe in search of inspiration. His first project upon returning was the quaint Little Church of the Flowers, a replica of a 600-year-old church in Stoke Poges, England. It was completed in 1921. Over the next twenty years, Forest Lawn saw the construction of the Wee Kirk o’ the Heather chapel, based on Annie Laurie’s church in Glencairn, Scotland, and the Church of the Recessional, a reproduction of the parish church of St. Margaret in Rottingdean, England. Eaton also placed 1,500 statues along the park’s meandering paths.

In the 1930s Forest Lawn became one of the area’s most visited tourist attractions. Busloads of visitors came not to mourn but to admire the bronze statues of historical figures and gather in the thousand-seat Hall of the Crucifixion where the “world’s largest religious painting” was housed. Not everyone, though, admired Eaton’s cheerful philosophy and amusement park cemetery. A visit to Forest Lawn prompted British author Evelyn Waugh to write the biting satire The Loved One around the time this map was made. Jessica Mitford, another British writer, attacked the Eaton’s concept in The American Way of Death in 1963.

The list of those interred at Forest Lawn is a virtual who’s who of Los Angeles entertainment. Stars buried there include Lauren Bacall, Nat King Cole, George Burns, Walt Disney, Clark Gable, Harold Lloyd, Mary Pickford, James Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, Red Skelton, Art Tatum, Spencer Tracy, Ethel Waters, and even Paramahansa Yogananda. Baby Boomers might take note that both Hopalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger are interred here as well. Two exclusive enclaves protect stars from unwanted attention: the “Great Mausoleum” and the even more exclusive “Holly Terrace,” where Michael Jackson was laid to rest back in 2009.

Los Angeles Public Library map librarian Glen Creason shares a map from the Central Library’s collection at CityThink each week.