Cemetery restoration is one of our specialties. The world’s most famous entertainer of the 1920’s has as grand a memorial as you can get. Al Jolson rests atop a 120-foot, five-tier cascading water feature at Hillside Memorial Park. 16 different types of imported Italian marble were used to construct the 75 foot tall domed mausoleum in 1951. Needless to say it is the focal point of the cemetery.
It’s impossible to be traveling through Culver City on the 405 and not sneak a peek.
1994 Cemetery Restoration
Over the last few decades we have paid a few restoration visits to Hillside Memorial Park. In the 1990’s there were some visible signs the memorial was in need of restoration. The pillars were starting to yellow and a 230 lb. piece of the marble dome fell out of place. Water had penetrated the dome, causing the rebar structure to rust and expand. The rebar’s slight increase in mass forced the chunk of marble to fall 30 feet onto the concrete floor below. Finding a piece of marble to match the color, radius, and fluted underside proved challenging. Then again there is no such thing as an easy cemetery restoration project.
We happened to snap a few additional polaroids of the first Jolson cemetery restoration at Hillside below.
2018 Cemetery Restoration
Fast forward a few decades to modern day. LA smog and the park’s water had again yellowed the white marble. Disclaimer: About to toot our own horn. We did such an amazing job the first time they reached out to see if we could clean the memorial again. We started by cleaning and restoring the six vertical pillars.
Our attention then turned to restoring the underside of the dome. A small crack had allowed moisture to make its way through the roof, and with time was starting to eat away at the grout of the dome underside. This grout holds thousands of hand laid mosaic tiles in place. Each tile is roughly one inch by one inch and together they create a mural of Moses holding the Ten Commandments. We re-grouted the entire mural with beautiful results.
Al Jolson was the star of first talking picture, The Jazz Singer. Could you imagine watching a movie without anyone speaking?
Paul R. Williams
The architect of Al Jolson’s memorial, Paul R. Williams (1894-1980), was a prominent African-American figure at a time when parts of the country were still segregated. During his working career of the 1920’s through the 1970’s he enjoyed worldwide success, designing more than 3,000 buildings—from private homes to public buildings. A gallery of his projects can be found here.
We are honored to be part of such a historic collection of history, architecture, and art.