Forest Lawn Cemetery was founded in 1922 by a private initiative, the Myrtle Grove Corporation. Noted landscape architect Charles F. Gillette was a shareholder, and he designed the cemetery plan. The group purchased 210 acres near Ginter Park across the northern city line in Henrico County for the project, the site of an estate previously known as Myrtle Grove. The cemetery’s advertisements emphasized its modernity, including “the use of modern landscape gardening” with its “equipment of chapel, crematory and other facilities.” Size was also a key distinction, as the grounds were “as Large as Oakwood and Hollywood Combined.” To fill those grounds, the corporation offered families sections financed on monthly payments.
The cemetery’s design centered on a triangular chapel and mausoleum complex amid sections of graves. Most sections feature upright monuments but some host new memorial markers flush with the turf.
A section allotted for the city’s Congregation Beth-El was dedicated just inside the main gates in 1937, and a section allotted as a Masonic Memorial Park opened in 1938. There cemetery would also add memorial sections for veterans and first responders, respectively.
In 1955, a local association of immigrants with the New American Jewish Club selected Forest Lawn as the site to raise a memorial to victims of the recent Holocaust. The group’s memorial — one of the first in the nation — consisted of a central stone flanked by two panels inscribed with the names of two hundred family members lost to genocide. “Theirs Are No Graves, They Shall Live In Our Hearts Forever,” the central stone proclaims. Burials of nearly two hundred Holocaust survivors would fill in around the memorial known as Emek Sholom (“Valley of Peace”), and two more flanking panels with 239 additional names were added in 1999.
Still active, Forest Lawn was purchased by StoneMor Partners in 2013.
For more information, see
The Diamond Peters Mausoleum in Forest Lawn, by Selden Richardson