Week 194: Forest Lawn Glendale

November 24, 2019

L.A. Walks: Why you want to take a stroll through one of L.A.'s most famous cemeteries, 5 miles

Often when Barbara and I hiked around Glendale and Elysian Park, we could see a crucifix topping a large white building on a mass of green high the distance. The large white building, the Hall of the Crucifixion-Resurrection, is one of the features at Forest Lawn Glendale, and when we ran across Charles Fleming's January 10, 2018 L.A. Times hike to Forest Lawn, we decided to take a trek out of curiosity. Forest Lawn in Glendale was founded in 1906, and today its 300-acres include 250,000 graves, including hundreds of famous people from Clara Bow to Walt Disney, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor, and Michael Jackson. Most of the famous rest in locked, private walled gardens, though we did see monuments to Aimee Semple McPherson, Joe E. Brown, and a lovely wall honoring Casey Stengel. Frankly, it felt disrespectful to seek out or photograph famous (or any) graves, so we concentrated on the gorgeous views, landscaping, architecture, and an incredible collection of statuary and art. Dr. Hubert Eaton who joined Forest Lawn in 1912 as sales manager and took over as manager in 1917, is the man responsible for the art and atmosphere. Eaton discouraged upright grave-markers and innovated the "memorial park" concept—uplifting rather than sorrowful—with emphasis on memorial architecture, world-class art, fountains, sculptures, and a world-renowned museum. We began our hike at the main entrance, the largest wrought-iron gates in the world, and set out toward the Great Mausoleum and beyond. Memorable stops: the charming Little Church of the Flowers; John Trumbull's Declaration of Independence mosaic in the Court of Freedom; a statue of Immortality; a stunning replica of Michelangelo's David (made from castings of the original); the stained glass in the Hall of the Crucifixion-Resurrection; the Museum (with a fascinating exhibit of 20th-century aerial photography); and the collection of the wonderful statuary. The roads had enough rises and dips to challenge us, the names on grave markers from the turn of the 20th-century were touching, and the views and the art made the hike rewarding.

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