Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery is part of the Forest Lawn chain of Southern California cemeteries. It is at 6300 Forest Lawn Drive in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles, California, on the lower north slope at the far east end of the Santa Monica Mountains range that overlooks North Hollywood and Burbank in the San Fernando Valley from its southeast. The Los Angeles River courses from west to east immediately to the north.
Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills is a park dedicated to the preservation of American history, and hosts high-profile events such as an annual Veterans Day ceremony attended by dignitaries and other VIPs. Los Angeles Magazine described it as a "theme-park necropolis", paraphrasing Jessica Mitford, indicating "Forest Lawn’s kitsch was just a sophisticated strategy for lubricating the checkbooks of the grieved."
The first Forest Lawn, in Glendale
, was founded in 1906 by businessmen who hired Dr. Hubert Eaton, a firm believer in a joyous life after death, who was convinced that most cemeteries were "unsightly, depressing stone yards," and pledged to create one that would reflect his optimistic beliefs, "as unlike other cemeteries as sunshine is unlike darkness." He envisioned Forest Lawn to be "a great park devoid of misshapen monuments and other signs of earthly death, but filled with towering trees, sweeping lawns, splashing fountains, beautiful statuary, and... memorial architecture".
Before it was a cemetery, Forest Lawn was a filming location used by directors such as Carl Laemmle and Cecil B. DeMille. The climactic battle scenes for D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation were filmed there. The alternate names of the filming site are Providencia Flats, Nestor Ranch, Oak Ranch, Oak Crest Ranch, Universal Ranch/Universal City
, Lasky Ranch, and Paramount Ranch until November 1927.
The park features such sights as:
Court Of Liberty
- The Court Of Liberty features statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and the Birth of Liberty mosaic. At 162 feet (49 m) long and 28 feet (8.5 m) high, Birth of Liberty is the largest historical mosaic in the United States. It is composed of ten million pieces of Venetian glass and depicts twenty-five scenes from early America, from 1619-1787.
- The Old North Church, a precise replica of Boston's historic church, from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Paul Revere's Ride". The historical rooms have documents and mementos of the colonial period.
- The Hall Of Liberty American History Museum has a copy of the Liberty Bell and other exhibits. The museum has a 1,200 seat auditorium.
- Monument To Washington, a marble and bronze tribute to America's first president, created by sculptor Thomas Ball. Four of Washington's generals are honored in the memorial.
- The Lincoln Terrace features a 16-foot (4.9 m) bronze statue of the 16th president by Augustus St. Gaudens, flanked by a panoramic mosaic depicting key scenes from Lincoln's life.
Plaza of Mesoamerican Heritage
- The Plaza of Mesoamerican Heritage has sculptures by Meliton Salas Rodriguez, of Guadalajara, Mexico. Salas used hand tools to first quarry, then work the native Mexican stone into precisely scaled, detailed replicas of art works and artifacts that are representative of the Aztec, Huastec, Maya, Mixtec, Olmec, Teotihuacan, Toltec, Totonac and Zapotec civilizations that preceded modern Mexican culture. A smooth Olmecan head, an intricate Aztec sun calendar and a sinuous Teotihuacan bas Relief are some of the sculptural features of the Plaza that are set off by crushed stone walkways and complemented by groupings of Mesoamerican plants.