History Of
THE PORTAL OF THE FOLDED WINGS

SHRINE TO AVIATION


The Portal Of The Folded Wings - Shrine To Aviation - 1956


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, on the eastern edge of this property. 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, United Airport (now Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport) was opened and aircraft noise over The Valhalla Memorial 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 both the airport and Lockheed Aircraft Company. He conceived a plan to use the structure as a shrine to aviation and worked for two decades to that end.
 
On December 17, 1953, The Valhalla Memorial 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 Wilbur and Orville Wright, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart and Com. Richard E. Byrd.
 
The plaque memorializing the dedication of The Portal Of The Folded Wings - Shrine To Aviation, which is affixed to the outside of The Portal, reads:


PORTAL OF THE FOLDED WINGS
Dedicated To The Honored Dead Of American Aviation On
The 50th Anniversary Of Powered Flight, Dec. 17, 1953,
By Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker USAF (Ret.)
Beneath The Memorial Tablets In This Sacred Portal
Rest The Cremated Remains Of Famous Flyers Who
Contributed So Much To The History And Development
Of Aviation. The Bronze Plaques Upon The Marble Walls
Memorialize Beloved Americans Who Devoted Their Lives
To The Advancement Of The Air Age. Administered Under
The Auspices Of The Brookins-Lahm-Wright Aeronautical
Foundation, This Shrine Stands As A Lasting Tribute.
Trustees, Valhalla Memorial Park
 
Ceremonies and interments 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 craftsmanship of MacDonald and Giorgi as well as the aviation pioneers who are buried beneath the dome.
 
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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