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Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s Clark Mausoleum

Thirteen years before he died, William Andrews Clark Jr. built his final resting place at Hollywood Cemetery: a marble mausoleum situated on its own island.

Hollywood Forever mausoleum
Clark Mausoleum in the mid-1920s (California State Library)

In 1920, the philanthropic millionaire—who founded and financed the Los Angeles Philharmonic—purchased the plot in the middle of man-made Sylvan Lake, and within weeks he began construction on the family vault, designed in a Greco-Roman Classical Revival style by architect Robert D. Farquhar.

The most expensive building of its size in the world, it cost $500,000 … equivalent to $7.7 million today (with inflation).

Clark Mausoleum
rear of Clark Mausoleum (California State Library)

Clark, the heir of Montana “Copper King” William Andrews Clark, spared no expense: $125,000 worth of crystalline marble quarried in Georgia comprises the base and exterior, outlined with twenty 15-foot Ionic pillars. The granite continues inside the crypt with seven sarcophaguses, each hand-carved in its own distinct design, resting on a base of onyx and set in an arched alcove.

The walls are covered in a million tiny tiles, artistically arranged to illustrate scenes from the Bible. Clark imported the colorful ceramic pieces from Italy, as well as the mosaic artists, 18 craftsmen who spent over a year painstakingly creating the mausoleum’s masterpiece.

Closed to the public, the crypt is sealed with a bronze door. Over it, sculptor Sherry Fry hand-carved a figure symbolizing immortality into the pediment with the Latin inscription: “The sweet memory of our beloved chases away the fear of death, the nature of heaven gives hope of a new life.”

Clark mausoleum
Illustrated Daily News / July 23, 1924

By 1921, the Clark crypt was completed—and ready for occupants. The first was William’s second wife Alice, once deemed “the most beautiful woman in Los Angeles, who died in 1918 at the age of 34 and had been temporarily buried in another mausoleum at Hollywood Cemetery. Next was his first wife Mabel, who died from sepsis in 1903 and had to be removed from her resting place in Butte, Montana, despite a legal battle by her sister.

It would be another decade before a third body was interred: William Clark III. In 1932, the millionaire’s 30-year-old son perished in a plane crash near Cottonwood, Arizona. With him was his instructor Jack Lynch, onetime co-pilot of Charles Lindbergh.

William Clark III's death
The Billings Gazette / May 16, 1932

Two years later, William Clark Jr. joined them in the mausoleum he built. In June 1934, while at his summer home in Summer Lake, Montana, the 57-year-old was taken by a heart attack. After lying in state at the Butte mansion of his late father, his body was transported in a private car on a Union Pacific train back to Hollywood, where the beloved philanthropist was memorialized at St. John’s Episcopal Church on W. Adams.

At the church service, 40 musicians from the Philharmonic orchestra performed Clark’s favorite selections, including “Allegretto” from Beethoven’s 7th Symphony and “Andante cantabile” from Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet. Simultaneously, three other ceremonies were held in Butte and Missoula, Montana, as well as Jerome, Arizona.

William Clark Jr's death
LA Times / June 15, 1934

The funeral cortege continued to Hollywood Cemetery, where Clark received his final wish: a reading of William Cullen Bryant’s poem “Thanatopsis” (“a consideration of death”) by Shakespearean actor R. D. McLean. His bronze coffin was then placed beside the three others inside the mausoleum and the bronze door sealed shut.

When Clark’s father died in 1925, he reportedly inherited $40 million, making him one of the wealthiest men in California. Now, with his own passing, the vast majority of that fortune was handed down to more than a dozen people who were closest to him. Harrison Post, Clark’s rumored lover, was bequeathed $25,000 in cash plus a trust worth $100,000. Caroline Smith, business manager of the LA Philharmonic, received $250,000. Money and Clark’s music collection also went to UCLA and the Los Angeles Public Library.

Many of Clark’s servants, both in Los Angeles and Butte, inherited tens of thousands. In particular, his LA housekeeper Martha received $2,000—while her 17-year-old son George John Pale was left an estate worth over $1 million. At the time of Clark’s death, he was reportedly finalizing the adoption process for the boy.

Pale, a military academy student, put the money to good use: He earned a business degree at USC. In 1935, he secretly married the daughter of an LA Phil trombonist and had four children, one of whom he named Clark (tragically, he overdosed at the age of 23 in 1965). After serving in World War II, Pale moved to Arizona and got into politics, as representative of the state’s Maricopa County. Coincidentally, he died at 57, the same age as Clark.

George Pale and William Clark
George Pale's story in American Weekly 1947

As for Post, the fortune he inherited from Clark turned his life into grave misfortune. The art collector asserted that his half-sister Gladys Crooks and her husband Charles fraudulently had him declared incompetent after he suffered partial paralysis and then sent him to a Norwegian health resort in 1939 with a male nurse. While there, Nazi Germany invaded and occupied the country, and Post was held prisoner in a concentration camp until the war’s end in 1945. Upon return to the U.S., he learned Gladys and Charles had liquidated his $500,000 estate. Post sued the couple for restitution, and in the meantime went to live with his “foster sister” Madeleine Starrett in San Francisco.

Strangely, two weeks before Post’s case against the Crooks went to trial, Starrett returned home on October 30, 1947 to find her 50-year-old brother dead on the floor. Even more peculiar: Six days earlier, he had changed his will to leave her everything. For years after Post’s death, Starrett continued to go after the Gladys and Charles for the missing money, eventually settling out of court with them in 1949.

Pale nor Post are interred at Hollywood Cemetery, now known as Hollywood Forever—which means there’s room for three more people inside the Clark Mausoleum.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Clark Mausoleum today (Time Out LA)


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