Three pictures combine to show a birds nest view of a monument in the process of being restored.

Tiered view from inside the birds nest during Al Jolson’s memorial restoration.

 

 

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.

 

 

A large marble structure rests on atop a hill with a five tear water feature flowing into the foreground.

View of Al Jolson’s memorial from the bottom of the water feature.

 

It’s impossible to be traveling through Culver City on the 405 and not sneak a peek.

 

A large marble structure in the foreground with a congested Los Angeles freeway in the background

405 traffic creeping by Hillside Memorial Park

 

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.

 

 

Showing a piece of missing marble from a domed mausoleum.

It may look small, but that hole is actually a missing piece of 230lb. marble.

 

 

We happened to snap a few additional polaroids of the first Jolson cemetery restoration at Hillside below.

 

 

1994 yellow spots on marble colum                                     Mid restoration 1994                                       Finished memorial after 1994 restoration

 

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.

 

 

A man using a rag to clean yellow spots off a vertical marble column.

Hand cleaning the yellowed columns.

 

 

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.

 

 

Mosaic mural depicting Moses holding the Ten Commandments script.

Hand-laid mosaic mural of Moses holding the Ten Commandments.

 

 

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.

 

 

A bronze statue of Al Jolson.

Al Jolson bronze statue in his famous “Jazz Singer” pose done by Carl Romanella.

 

We are honored to be part of such a historic collection of history, architecture, and art.

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