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What is the Forest Lawn Cemetery?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jan 21, 2024
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Numerous cemeteries around the world are known as “Forest Lawn,” but the most famous is probably Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. This particular Forest Lawn stretches across 300 acres of manicured grounds and rolling hills, and it hosts over a quarter of a million decedents. It has been made famous both by the fame of some of the people interred there, and by its flamboyant and very distinctive style.

Forest Lawn was founded in 1906 by a group of businessmen in San Francisco, and it was initially established as a non-profit. By 1917, Forest Lawn had been taken over by Dr. Hubert Eaton, a man who is often credited with revolutionizing the American funeral industry. Eaten developed the “memorial park” concept, which involves the use of memorial plaques rather than upright stones as grave markers. He also pioneered the concept of having a funeral home on the grounds of the cemetery, creating bundled package services for customers of the cemetery.

Eaton's work at Forest Lawn proved extremely successful. Today, Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks and Mortuaries runs six memorial parks in addition to the original Forest Lawn, located in Palm Springs, Covina Hills, Long Beach, Cathedral City, Cypress, and the Hollywood Hills. The company does not appreciate the term “cemetery” in the context of its properties, preferring “memorial park.”

Forest Lawn is truly a distinctive place. Because graves are covered in plaques, rather than headstones, the grounds are easy to maintain, and people can wander around rolling green hills, exploring various regions of the cemetery with names like Slumberland, Eventide, Inspiration Land, and Babyland. The cemetery is dotted with reproductions of famous works of art, and it includes several reconstructions of famous buildings. Forest Lawn also has columbariums for cremated remains, along with private gated gardens for particularly prestigious residents of the cemetery, like Humphrey Bogart.

Visitors to Forest Lawn can see a number of chapels and courtyards, decorated in a variety of themes from patriotic to deeply religious. In addition to being used for funeral services, Forest Lawn's grounds are also rented out for weddings, christenings, and other events. Several of the Forest Lawn properties including Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills have become tourist destinations in their own right, due to the remarkable collections of art scattered across their grounds. The look and feel of Forest Lawn is certainly quite unique in the cemetery industry, just as the founder intended it to be.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon150040 — On Feb 06, 2011

I beg to differ the previous post. There are actually ten Forest Lawn locations now: Forest Lawn Glendale, Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Forest Lawn Cypress, Forest Lawn Covina Hills, Forest Long Beach, Forest Lawn Cathedral City, Forest Lawn Palm Springs, Forest Lawn Indio, Forest Lawn Coachella and Forest Lawn Palm Desert.

By anon10550 — On Mar 29, 2008

The six sites are Glendale, Hollywood Hills, Covina Hills, Cypress, Long Beach, and Cathedral City. Palm Springs is adjacent to Cathedral City and is not a separate site.

I know this because I am the lecturer for Forest Lawn Museum.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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