The cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, on the cemetery’s 100th anniversary. On June 25, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell launched the city’s efforts to include the cemetery on its own list of historic and cultural landmarks.
The Cultural Heritage Commission reviewed the property on October 21 and recommended that the city council add it to the list.
“I was surprised it wasn’t on our list already… It’s always interesting when something comes up in front of us and you think, ‘Isn’t that a monument yet?'” said Commissioner Richard Barron at the meeting.
The designation of the monument has been recommended for the cemetery‘s association with the early development of Hollywood and the western expansion of Los Angeles during the 20th century, as well as for its association with the development of the cemetery industry and Jewish burial facilities in the city.
The commission also said the cemetery represents one of the earliest and most stylized examples of lawned park cemetery designs in Los Angeles, and a fine work of cemetery planner Joseph Earnshaw.
Heather Goers, senior architectural historian with the Historic Resources Group, spoke to the commission about the significance of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery before it votes to recommend the property’s designation. She noted that the period of significance for the property extends from 1899, the establishment of the cemetery, to 1941, when the Douglas Fairbanks monument was erected. This monument was designed by Howard Seidell of the Georgia Marble Company and was erected two years after the actor’s death.
Enthusiasts have noted that much of the cemetery’s early decades were caught up in litigation, so Earnshaw’s vision was not immediately executed, and much of the cemetery’s growth period slumped. was produced in the 1920s.
Character-defining structures include the historic Chapel designed by Hunt and Eager as part of the original cemetery entrance complex, the Cathedral Mausoleum designed by Marston and Van Pelt, the Chapel of Psalms designed by Frank Gibson, the Clark Mausoleum designed by Robert Farquhar, the Coffin Showroom, Bell Tower, Psalms Abbey Mausoleum and Masonic Temple built in 1931 by Morgan, Walls & Clements.
As part of the cemetery’s western development, it set aside a portion of the property for Jewish burials in 1927. That year, the cemetery also began developing a mausoleum exclusively for Jewish burial.
“It also reflected the growing Jewish community in Los Angeles, as well as their westward expansion, as Jewish enclaves emerged in Mid-Wilshire and Hollywood, other temples were built further west, and there had a desire to be closer to these faith centers and have facilities closer to where they live rather than having to travel,” Goers said.
The property, located at 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard between Van Ness Avenue and Gower Street, has become a tourist destination due to celebrity and celebrity burials, which began as early as 1910, when victims of the Los Angeles Times bombings were buried in the cemetery.
“We can talk about the buildings, structures and landscape features that make this property significant in terms of development, but one of the things that comes out very clearly from researching this property and experiencing it is its intangible connection to the Hollywood history,” the fans said. “The fact that these funerals were people who helped start and grow Hollywood.”
In its more than 120 years as a cemetery, the property has interred Rudolph Valentino, Mickey Rooney, Estelle Getty, Judy Garland, Griffith J. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille and many others.
Fans added that many celebrities who were buried at the cemetery in its early years could have chosen more established cemeteries, but decided to be buried, instead, in the community they helped build.
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Tyler Cassity, co-owner of Hollywood Forever Cemetery, expressed support for the designation ahead of the Cultural Heritage Commission’s deliberation.
“We are committed to the long-term care and preservation of Hollywood Forever, a cultural landmark and historical touchstone like no other,” Cassity said.
Commission Chairman Barry Milofsky and Commissioner Diane Kanner noted the diversity of the population buried at the cemetery.
“There are a lot of immigrant families – Slavic, Russian, Hispanic,” Kanner said.
Milofsky added, “The cemetery is as diverse as the general population of the city, it reflects that diversity that makes LA unique.”
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