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North Hollywood | Valley Focus

Cemetery Monument Restoration Honored

March 22, 1997|DADE HAYES

The Portal of the Folded Wings, built in 1924 next to what is now Burbank Airport, has been selected as one of 20 statewide winners of the annual Preservation Design Awards.

The California Preservation Foundation honored the Valhalla Memorial Park monument in its restoration category. The monument is the only San Fernando Valley winner and one of five in Los Angeles.

"The result" of the restoration, the foundation said in a statement, "is an exquisite building with an impressive amount of effort expended on an often-neglected building type."

For decades the monument--a 72-foot steel-framed perforated cube, with a vaulted dome roof of colorful glazed tiles--has symbolized the airport and aviation.

Those buried beneath it include the builder of the engine that powered the Wright brothers' first flight, and the creator of Amelia Earhart's first plane.

In the 1994 Northridge earthquake, about 70% of the structural decoration at the roof level was heavily damaged, according to the L.A.-based Sculpture Conservation Studio, which led the effort to save the Portal.

Prior to the quake, the Baroque sandstone building was sheathed in white marble detailed with scrollwork and sculpture. The roof was topped by a female figure with outstretched arms, partially enclosed by a curved, 5-foot-wide shell.

The yearlong restoration process entailed recovering and reattaching fragments of tile and stone that fell during the quake.

Especially prone to breaking off were the structure's finials, flame-shaped shafts of stone.

John Garrett, a sculptural technician on the project, said photographs and historical sources were consulted before each piece was reattached.

One particular challenge, he said, involved the signature female figure, who lost her arms.

"We tried lots of different versions of her arms," Garrett said, before settling on a pair that "make her look like she's trying to lift you up."

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