News & Advocacy

Woodlawn Cemetery and Mausoleum, a Historic Resource

October 23, 2020

by Sherrill Kushner
A version of this article was first published in our December 2018 newsletter.

Cemeteries double as resting places for the deceased and repositories of history for the living. Our own Woodlawn Cemetery on 14th Street in Santa Monica reflects the people who made significant contributions in the arts, entertainment, music, science and sports, as well as the ordinary people who lived and worked in Santa Monica.

Woodlawn Cemetery. Photo: Santa Monica Mirror

Actor and preservationist Leo Carrillo, who played a key role in the state’s acquisition of Hearst Castle and the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, is interred here along with Abbot Kinney, founder of Venice; surf pioneer Nick Gabaldon; jazz musician Red Norvo; astronaut Sally Ride; E.C. Segar, the creator of “Popeye”; tennis champion May Sutton; and Jesse Unruh, who served as State Assemblyman, Speaker of the Assembly and State Treasurer. Notable actors at Woodlawn include Barbara Billingsley from “Leave it to Beaver,” Paul Henreid, who starred in the movie Casablanca, Irene Ryan of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and Hal Smith from “The Andy Griffith Show.”

The City of Santa Monica purchased the 26-acre cemetery in 1897. Built in 1922, its historic mausoleum features handmade stained-glass windows and ironwork. The halls feature exquisite imported marble and granite from Italy. The rotunda walls are adorned with large colorful tapestries painted by artist Hugo Ballin, who is also buried at Woodlawn. Woodlawn reflects the architecture of early Spanish California, and is one of the first public mausoleums constructed in California. The cemetery is still owned and operated by the City of Santa Monica.

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