Birth of a Cemetery

About the Book

It would be easy to think of this as only a story about the beginnings of a cemetery but in addition to being that, the story of Forest Lawn's early years is a story about California at the beginning of the 20th century

Forest Lawn Memorial-Park is famous for its art and beauty as well as being the final resting place of many celebrities. It is known for banning upright monuments--a "marble orchard"--and replacing them with flat memorials that allow sweeping vistas showing off statuary, mosaics and beautiful architecture.

While the book is about Forest Lawn Cemetery becoming Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, but it is also very much a book about Southern California in the early 1900s. It reflects the exuberance and business climate of the time--very different from today.

The book traces Forest Lawn from an idea for a Los Angeles cemetery to becoming a world famous memorial park. Along the way there are double dealings, fraud, land speculation, inheritance issues, financial finagling almost putting the cemetery six feet under financially, forgery, a shootout with a monument dealer in front of the cemetery and a drunk who dies from surgery as the cure for his alcoholism.

Birth of a Cemetery fills out the story of Forest Lawn’s beginnings, showing the challenges and disabusing former versions that portrayed the cemetery’s evolution as being easy.

Forest Lawn's website:

Forest Lawn Memorial-Park

Architect T. Paterson Ross was part of the original idea for a cemetery.

J. B. Treadwell also part of the original group, but often manipulated things for his own benefit.

Hubert Lewright Eaton conceived the "memorial-park plan" in 1917 and ultimately found a way to make Forest Lawn successful.

Burt Richardson, an adjacent land owner, was killed in the street outside Forest Lawn for opposing a tombstone seller near his propertyj