Placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Dept. of Interior in 1998, the Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation and Museum can be easily overlooked amidst the crowded San Fernando Valley.
The Portal, a 75 feet tall structure composed of marble, mosaic, and sculpted figures, did not begin honorably. In 1923, it seems that a couple of swindlers, Osborne and Fitzpatrick, bought up over 65 acres in rural Burbank with the intent of building a graveyard they named Valhalla Memorial Park. Having little, if any, knowledge as graveyard manager, they sent out hundreds of salesmen to sell plots. Some were sold to multiple owners. To make a long story short, Osborne and Fitzpatrick were eventually convicted of fraud and sentenced to prison in 1925.
Before their run-in with the law, the two engaged the services of architect Kenneth MacDonald Jr. and sculptor Federico Giorgi to build the Valhalla Memorial Rotunda, now known as the Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation and Museum. It is located on the eastern portion of the Pierce Brothers Valhalla Cemetery. In addition, beautiful gardens and three reflection ponds were designed to create an idyllic setting. A grand opening was held on March 1, 1925 with a dedication of the gateway and a concert. During the 1920s and 1930s, the park became the venue for musical concerts, radio broadcasts, and other public events.
Changes have been made over the years to the Portal. In 1930, with an increase in aircraft noise over the Rotunda, the main entrance to traffic was moved from Hollywood Way to Cahuenga and Victory Avenues. The floor area in the Rotunda was enclosed by an iron fence and the three reflection pools were filled in some time later.
The close proximity of the Union Airport, formerly Los Angeles Mesa Drive Airport and then United, inspired cemetery employee and aviation enthusiast James Gillette to dedicate over two decades to having the Rotunda become a shrine to aviation. On the 50th anniversary of the Wright Brothers flight, December 17, 1953 the structure was rededicated as the Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation. It would be officially rededicated once more, on May 27, 1996.
Many great aviators and those who dedicated their lives to aviation are honored at the Shrine. Bert Kinner, Roy Knabenshue, Elizabeth McQueen, Bobbi Trout, John and Matilde Moisant, and Charles Taylor, the Wright brothers’ mechanic, are just a few. Non-aviation notables include comedian Oliver Hardy, silent film star Mae Murray, and wrestler Gorgeous George.
Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery
10621 Victory Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91606
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