The cemetery has a special section called the Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation that is the final resting place for a number of aviation pioneers — barnstormers, daredevils and sundry architects of aviation. There is a memorial to Amelia Earhart and others, honoring their accomplishments.
Among those interred here are some celebrities from the entertainment industry.
The shrine, with a colorful tile dome and female figures stretching their arms to the heavens, originally was built as an impressive entrance to Valhalla Memorial Park cemetery. It was named for the palace of Odin, the Norse god of slain heroes.
Valhalla was founded in 1923 by two Los Angeles financiers, John R. Osborne and C. C. Fitzpatrick. The Spanish Mission Revival entrance structure was designed by architect Kenneth McDonald Jr. For the decorative stone castings, McDonald hired Italian-born sculptor Federico A. Giorgi, who had created 30-foot (9.1 m)-tall statues of elephants and lions for the 1917 epic film Intolerance and crafted the exterior of downtown's Million Dollar Theater. The gateway to the new cemetery cost $140,000.
The rotunda was dedicated March 1, 1925, with a concert by English contralto Maude Elliott. Picnickers spread blankets on the surrounding grassy expanse between three reflecting pools and flat cemetery markers, which were a new concept at the time. It became a tourist attraction and was used for concerts that were broadcast over radio station KELW by station owner Earl L. White. Just five months after the dedication, Osborne and Fitzpatrick were convicted of fraud. They had sold the same burial plots repeatedly — as many as 16 times — and netted a profit of $3 million to $4 million, according to Los Angeles Times stories of the era. They were fined $12,000 each and sentenced to 10 years in prison but served less than half the sentence.
Fountain at Valhalla Memorial Park
The cemetery was taken over by the state. It is unclear how long the state owned the 63-acre (250,000 m2) cemetery, but Pierce Brothers bought it in 1950 and, within two years, closed the rotunda to vehicle traffic and moved the entry to the cemetery from Valhalla Drive in Burbank to Victory and Cahuenga boulevards in North Hollywood. There, they opened a two-story office and mortuary.
On Dec. 17, 1953 — the 50th anniversary of Orville and Wilbur Wright's 12-second powered hop at Kitty Hawk — the rotunda was rededicated as the Portal of the Folded Wings, through the efforts of aviation fan and cemetery employee James Gillette. During the ceremony, the cremated remains of Walter R. Brookins were interred there. Brookins, the first aviator to take a plane to an altitude of a mile, had been the Wright brothers' first civilian student.
When sculptor Giorgi died in 1963, he was buried outside the structure, near his masterpiece. Gillette was also buried outside, near the shrine he helped found.
Amelia Earhart Memorial at Portal of the Folded Wings
In 1958, Pierce Brothers sold its family-owned chain of Southern California mortuaries and cemeteries to Texas financier Joseph L. Allbritton, who sold off 20 acres (81,000 m2) of Valhalla for development. In 1991, the cemeteries and mortuaries were acquired by Service Corp. International in Houston, but the Pierce Brothers sign remains at Valhalla.
Pioneers' resting place
Beneath the memorial tablets rest the remains of other aviation pioneers, including:
Augustus Roy Knabenshue (1876–1960), who in 1904 became America's first dirigible pilot. He also founded a dirigible passenger service, from Pasadena to Los Angeles, in 1912.
James Floyd Smith (1884–1956), who built and flew his own plane in 1912 and invented the free-type manually operated parachute for the Army in 1918.
Hilder Florentina Smith (1890–1977), who became a parachute jumper in 1914. Two years later, she became the first female pilot to fly out of the bean patch that later became Los Angeles International Airport. She was married to James Floyd Smith.
Matilde Moisant, the second American woman to earn her pilot certificate — two days after her friend, journalist Harriet Quimby. In 1911, Moisant let Quimby be first, because Quimby needed the extra acclaim: She wrote about air races and the thrill of flight.
John B. Moisant (1868–1910), who designed and built the first metal plane. Matilde Moisant was his sister.
Note: this is a partial list. Use the following alphabetical links to find a name.