NORTH HOLLYWOOD - Inside the quiet grounds of Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery sits a 75-foot tall structure made of marble mosaic and adorned with sculpted figures. The shrine, known as the Portal of the Folded Wings, is the burial site of 15 aviation pioneers.
The structure, originally know as the Valhalla Memorial Rotunda, first served as the entrance to Valhalla Memorial Park in 1924. It represents Mission/Spanish/Colonial Revival architecture and Chumgueresque decorative styles.
In 1937, aviation enthusiast and park employee James Gillette was so impressed by the proximity of the new neighboring Burbank Airport and the region's growing aviation industry, which included Lockheed Aircraft, that he started a movement to create a shrine to aviation honoring the pioneers of flight at this site, and worked to that end for two decades.
On December 17, 1953, the 50th anniversary of the birth of powered flight, the Portal of the Folded Wings was formally dedicated as the "Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation." The ceremonies were presided over by Lt. General Ira C. Eaker of the United States Air Force, and other aviation attended, including Carl Squier, a World War I aviation pioneer who was the 13th licensed pilot in the United States and vice president of Lockheed Corporation. Among the pioneers enshrined at the portal include, Matilde Moisant, the country's second licensed female pilot in 1911, and Charles Taylor, the machinist for the Wright brothers.
In 1998, the shrine was officially placed in the National Registry of Historic Places. It added a 21-foot-long model of the Space Shuttle in 2007 to serve as a memorial to the crews of the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia.
The shrine has been called the "Arlington of the Air" and the "Westminster Abbey of reverence for the founders of the air age," for its role in honoring the pioneers of aviation. The Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery is located on 10621 Victory Boulevard in North Hollywood.