Mountain View Mortuary and Cemetery – Altadena, California - Atlas Obscura

Altadena, California

Mountain View Mortuary and Cemetery

This magnificent mausoleum is as much a work of art as it is a historic resting place. 

When Pasadena pioneer Levi W. Giddings lost his daughter, Laura, he customarily buried her on private property belonging to a friend, Colonel Jabez Banbury. But when Banbury sold his land in 1882, the fate of Laura’s grave became an imperative matter. So Giddings established Mountain View Cemetery on his own property in 1882, rendering this historic mortuary, crematory, and cemetery one of the oldest in the Los Angeles region.

Almost 140 years later, the Giddings family still owns and operates this multifarious locale, which also boasts an impressive art collection and verdant arboretum. But Mountain View is most notably the site of its magnificent mausoleum.

In 1923, Cecil E. Bryan—a former employee of the seminal American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright—built an arresting monument on nearby Marengo Avenue. Of the 80-plus tombs that Bryan designed during his career, he regarded this mausoleum as the apex of his achievements.

Visual delights abound inside, from the Chapel of Radiance, complete with vivid stained glass panels by Los Angeles’ Judson Studio, to the grand frescoes by Norwegian painter Martin Syvertsen that adorn soaring corridor ceilings and walls with biblical scenes. The mausoleum exhibits this design feat more or less the way Bryan left it, complete with most of its original furnishings. The building was purchased by Mountain View in 1971, and remains a highlight of the cemetery. Bryan and his wife are even buried on site.

The neighboring Pasadena Mausoleum was also incorporated into Mountain View, complete with a Sunrise Chapel and a contemplative open-air space. Both mausoleums are imposing works of architecture that house spectacular crypts and marble niches for cremated remains.

Mountain View serves as the final resting place for a great many figures of historical significance, including Civil War officers, the acclaimed actor George Reeves (who played Superman in the 1950s television series), former leader of the Black Panthers, Eldridge Cleaver, and Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Richard Feynman.

Know Before You Go

Mountain View Cemetery is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mausoleum viewing hours are between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Visitors to Mountain View are asked to maintain awareness that the site is an active cemetery. Gravesite decorations are not to be altered or moved.

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