Hollywood Cemetery, located in the central area of Hollywood, California at 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard, was the first cemetery to be built in Hollywood (1899) and is one of the earliest examples of the lawn-park style cemetery in California. The period of significance begins in 1899 with the founding of the cemetery and ends in 1939 with the cessation of all major construction and landscaping installations. The Douglas Fairbanks Memorial and associated reflecting pool comprise the final construction projects. The property’s level of integrity is quite high, despite declines suffered in the past few decades. The cemetery directly borders Paramount Pictures to the south, and has a beautiful view of the Cahuenga Valley and the Hollywood Hills to the north. Downtown Los Angeles (to the east) and the Pacific Ocean (to the west) can be seen from the top of the bell tower near the main gate. Architectural styles featured include magnificent examples of Italian Renaissance, Classical Revival, Mission Style, Spanish Baroque, and Egyptian Revival. The property consists of approximately 62 acres with about 80,000 burials to date.

The Hollywood Cemetery property7 originally consisted of 100 acres at its inception in 1899, Mr. Van Nuys and his father-in-law Mr. Lankershim, two wealthy San Fernando Valley ranchers and farmers, bought the land from Mary Gower.

Mary was one of the original founders of Hollywood, having arrived in the area in the 1870s. She was also Hollywood’s first school teacher. The 100-acre tract was part of the 1400-acre central Hollywood homestead where she and her family grew wheat and operated a thresher for other farmers in the area. In fact, Mary Gower and her family threshed the first wheat crop grown on the Lankershim Company Ranch for the Van Nuys and the Lankershim families in 1875, fourteen years prior to the land sale establishing the cemetery.

Initially, the 100-acre site was bounded between Gower Street on the west, Van Ness Avenue on the east, Santa Monica Boulevard to the north and Melrose Avenue to the south.

In 1920, 40 acres of unused south-facing cemetery land was sold to Paramount Pictures and RKO Radio Pictures in order to accommodate space requirements for the burgeoning movie industry. Paramount Pictures still occupies the acreage, but the RKO portion is now occupied by a television station studio and broadcasting facility.

The main entrance gate was and still is on Santa Monica Boulevard. The street boundaries remain the same as in 1899, but Paramount Pictures and the television station now form the southern boundary, so there is no cemetery7 property7 frontage on Melrose Avenue. The Santa Monica Mountains are visible to the north and the Los Angeles Basin stretches out to the south. Downtown Los Angeles lies about 10 miles to the east of the cemetery and the Pacific Ocean is approximately 15 miles to the west.

The setting is one of calmness, serenity and grace, even though the noises of the city exist just outside the gates and perimeter wall. Santa Monica Boulevard, the main entrance route to the cemetery, is extremely busy most hours of the day. Beautiful palm trees and other greenery dot the park-like setting and a lake with fountain occupies the eastern section of the property.

The cemetery7 property’s level of integrity is quite high. Before the sale of the unused portion of land to the movie studios, the cemetery made constant landscaping and building improvements. Most of these early installations remain intact. Most of the improvements made after the land sale remain intact also.

A few original structures, however, no longer exist. The original cemetery chapel, built in 1902 of solid granite, sat in the middle of the 100 acres. The chapel included an adjacent bell tower containing poetry-inscribed bells honoring Mrs. Eliza Otis. Mrs. Otis authored a large collection of poetry during her lifetime, some of which was chosen for inscription on the bronze bells. She was also a great philanthropist and the wife of the founder of the Los Angeles Times, Harrison Otis.

It’s unclear if the chapel building became part of the movie studios’ lots during the land sale of 1920 or was torn down. But the records do show that by 1925, a new bell tower had been constructed near the main entrance on Santa Monica Boulevard. Contemporary sources heralded the new tower as a beautiful replacement necessary to diffuse the dangerous conditions posed by the sagging timbers of the original 1902 tower.

The sources also hint that the bells may have been silent whilst the new tower was being built, indicating that perhaps the entire original chapel and tower were torn down or included in the land sale to the studios. This would be in keeping with the 1920 sell-off date for the south 40 acres.

Additionally, a second lake no longer exists on the property. Originally, two lakes were installed near the turn of the century – one on the east side and another more centrally located. The central lake no longer exists and it is not clear if that feature was also part of the land sale in 1920 or was filled in.

Also, according to some sources, several private residences were built on the cemetery site to house important staff members. The source material does not indicate the exact location on the grounds, but no house structures exist today.

In summary, the original chapel and bell tower, the central lake, and several housing structures are no longer present on the cemetery property, but the remaining components and features, which comprise the majority of the site, present a very high level of integrity.

The Hollywood Cemetery is an example of a lawn-park cemetery (1855-1920’s) – a style which is said to characterize the first truly modern cemetery of the 20th century and which bridged the Victorian-styled cemeteries of the 1800’s and the more recent memorial park cemeteries (1917-present). A park-like pastoral atmosphere prevails with rolling lawns and lots of greenery and space. Monuments had to be low to the ground, but not absolutely flush, as in the more recent memorial park. Private above-ground family crypts could be constructed if they adhered to styles such as Classical Revival, Italian Renaissance or Egyptian Revival. No old-style traditional Victorian graveyard elements were permitted.

From its beginning in 1899, Hollywood Cemetery was planned and designed as a striking example of the “new” and “modem” lawn-park cemetery and to reflect and represent: the changing views and attitudes about death in American society’ at the dawn of the 20th Century.