At Cypress Lawn: Lakeside Columbarium

By the 1920s, cremation was becoming an option for an increasing number of California families.

Bernard Cahill, the renowned architect who designed the original Cypress Lawn Mediterranean-style administration building on the West Campus and the grand public mausoleum behind it, then assumed his last major Cypress Lawn project: the proposed 20,000-square-foot Lakeside Columbarium just south of the grand entrance gateway.

1930s postcard

1930s postcard

Construction began in 1927. Then came the Depression and work on the Mediterranean-style building stopped abruptly in 1930. Fortunately, the ground floor was finished. It featured 29 varieties of imported Carrera marble, elaborate closed and open-faced niches, opalescent glass skylights, and a dozen private rooms facing the lake. A small fourth floor, containing rows of more modest niches, was also ready to be populated. The Lakeside master plan had called for 10,000 niches, which would have made it the world’s largest columbarium.

Lakeside 2

A spectacular interior courtyard, rising three stories and topped by a glass roof, was left unfinished. Its effect, not unlike that of an ancient ruin, is surreal. The area is not open to the public.

Lakeside 3

Over the years, numerous plans have been presented to complete the project. Cypress Lawn is currently reviewing a new proposal for this charmed spot.

Factoids:

  • Hamden Noble directed that Cahill also include pigeon cotes on the east side of the Lakeside structure for his beloved brown-winged turbit pigeons. Today, the crows have taken over.
  • You can take a classic Art Deco elevator to the fourth floor, called Angel’s Court. There are no second or third floor options.

Lakeside 5.   Lakeside 4