Sunday, July 16, 2006

100 Years of Forest Lawn

Now that we live Forest Lawn-adjacent, I'd be remiss not to point out the Glendale cemetery's 100th anniversary. As today's L.A. Times notes, Forest Lawn's bells and whistles have likened it to a "Disneyland of death":

Over the last century, Forest Lawn has been mocked by novelist Evelyn Waugh and blamed as the cause of soaring burial costs. It also became an unlikely magnet for tourists who see the feel-good cemetery as a distinctly California invention.

So the 290-acre burial ground that straddles the Glendale-Los Angeles boundary line has plenty to commemorate.

It may have been the first cemetery in the United States to ban above-ground, monument-style tombstones and instead require ground-level markers (better views, less cemetery-like).

It was the first to incorporate distinctive architectural motifs, creating faux European castles and cathedrals that critics have likened to a Disneyland of death. The designs were meant to entice visitors to linger in a park-like setting.

As it marks its 100th birthday, Forest Lawn isn't the tourist draw it was in its heyday — and some of its more flamboyant flourishes, such as talking statues, have been toned down.

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