At Pierce Brothers Valhalla Cemetery, North Hollywood, California
Grave site of American Aviation Pioneers including
Charles Taylor, the Wright Brothers' Mechanic



The Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation and Museum

has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Dept. of Interior.

DOI #98000246, March 18, 1998


A summary by Giacinta Bradley Koontz

In 1924, architect Kenneth MacDonald, Jr. and sculptor Federico Giorgi built the Valhalla Memorial Rotunda, a structure now known as the Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation and Museum, on the eastern edge of Pierce Brothers Valhalla Cemetery. Originally intended to be the entrance to Valhalla Memorial Park, visitors drove through the arches via Valhalla Drive, off Hollywood Way. The Rotunda, with its graceful garden walls and three reflection pools became a tourist attraction, and was used for musical concerts, radio broadcasts and other public events during the 1920's and 1930's.

In 1930, Union Airport (now Burbank Glendale Pasadena Airport) was opened and aircraft noise over the Rotunda prompted cemetery management to close the east entrance. A new main entrance at Cahuenga and Victory was opened, and vehicle traffic through the Rotunda ceased. The floor area beneath the dome was eventually enclosed with an iron fence, and the three reflection pools were filled in. Cemetery employee and aviation enthusiast James Gillette was impressed by the Rotunda's close proximity to the airport and Lockheed Aircraft Company. He conceived a plan to use the structure as a shrine to aviation and worked to that end for two decades.

On December 17, 1953, the Rotunda was rededicated as the "Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation" in a ceremony presided over by Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker. In attendance were members of the Early Birds and other pioneer aviation organizations who were contemporaries of Orville and Wilbur Wright, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart and Com. Richard E. Byrd.

Ceremonies and internments were held beneath the dome of the Portal for the following pioneers of aviation: Bertrand B. Acosta, Walter R. Brookins, Mark M. Campbell, Rev. John Carruthers, Col. Warren S. Eaton, W. Bertrum Kinner, A. Roy Knabenshue, Elizabeth L. McQueen, John B. Moisant, Matilde Moisant, J. Floyd Smith, Hilder F. Smith, Carl. B. Squier, and Charles E. Taylor.

Following the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park worked with historic preservation specialists to restore the structure which had been long neglected. In 1996, Giacinta Bradley Koontz, aviation historian, was hired as Director of the Portal to oversee its rededication and to create a museum within the structure to honor the pioneers who are buried beneath the dome, and the craftsmanship of MacDonald and Giorgi.

On May 27, 1996, The Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation and Museum was officially rededicated in a public ceremony with Dr. Tom Crouch, Chairman, Aeronautics Dept., National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, as the keynote speaker.

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