April 13, 2019

Photo Essay: The (Mostly) Locked Gardens of Forest Lawn Glendale

You would think that at a place like Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale—which seems to "let it all hang out" with an explosion of stained glass, mosaic art, and statuary—nothing would be kept close to the vest.

But for all there is for the public to enjoy by taking either a drive or stroll through the massive property...

...there's even more locked away, reserved only for a chosen few.

These are the "secret" gardens of Forest Lawn Glendale—though I suspect many people know about them. They just may not know how to get in.

Fortunately, the Glendale Historical Society got me in to see the final resting places of, for example, silent movie sweetheart Mary Pickford...

... Broadway impresario and showman Earl Carroll...

...Humphrey Bogart, and many other Hollywood elite... well as anybody else whose families or estates had enough in their coffers to place them behind this veil of secrecy... the "Gardens of Memory" (and the "Columbarium of Eternal Light" that's located within).

It keeps the looky-loos out...

...since only a limited number of "golden keys" are doled out (and that's pretty much the only way to get in).

But there isn't just one "secret" garden of Forest Lawn Glendale.

They're all over!

I'd already encountered the one by the Vestry Walk at the Wee Kirk O' the Heather back in 2015...

...but I had no idea about the Court of Freedom (or its 17-foot bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson).

Singer Natalie Cole is interred across from there in a "lawn crypt."

It's located within the locked "Gardens of Honor"...

...where single garden crypts start at $26,500...

...and companion garden crypts start at $31,500.

But even those features not behind lock-and-key are sometimes Forest Lawn's best-kept secrets (just as the "secret" gardens are some of the worst-kept). Which means you just have to keep going back, keep looking, and keep trying every door.

A new discovery for me on this latest visit was a rare, original, commissioned work—Ernesto Gazzeri's "The Mystery of Life," completed in 1928 and located in The Gardens of The Mystery of Life.

Although as a whole whole, it depicts the various ages of man—from infancy to old age—it centers around the astonishing miracle of a chick hatching from its egg.

But with Forest Lawn—as with life itself—you may never know the secret of it all.

No matter how much longing, seeking, striving, waiting, or yearning you do.*

*h/t Victor Herbert

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Storybook Wedding Chapel of Forest Lawn Cemetery (Updated for 2019)
Photo Essay: The Locked Chapels of Rose Hills


  1. I explored those gardens years ago when I lived in Glendale. No key, I just happened to be there with a camera in hand when the gardeners were at work. Lucky timing.

    1. That happened to me once as well. The gardens are usually very understanding. One told me once that he hardly saw any key holders, and he wondered what will happen when no one visits anymore. Was also able to slip into the Great Mausoleum without any trouble. That was several years ago, prior to Michael Jackson’s internment.

  2. The The Mystery of Life was once located at the Cypress location. I recall it in my younger days with a small water feature that actually worked. There was a statue diagram also explaining the perspectives of the individual figures.

  3. This past summer we came down from Canada to visit Forest Lawn as my Dad's great grandparents are there in the Court of Freedom (your photo is actually where they are laid to rest.) It took 55 years for our family to come pay our respects but we are so glad we did. I would love to return to spend a day there as it is simply an amazing place. We stopped by Holly Terrace as well just to see all the memorials for Michael Jackson outside. Not many people say they visited a cemetary on their holiday (to Disneyland) but it fulfilled a wish I had to 'see' my great great grandparents.