Monday, July 6, 2009

The Death of a Los Angeles Icon

90 years ago today, Colonel Griffith J. Griffith passed away at the age of 69. Griffith's name will forever be connected to the city of Los Angeles, California for the famous Griffith Park or Griffith Observatory, which were donated to the city by the eccentric industrialist. The park has long been connected with the so-called “Griffith Park Curse," though its roots extend back before his ownership. The legend states that a curse was placed on the land over a real estate dispute following the ownership of Don Antonio Feliz. The reported curse ravaged the finances of subsequent owners and even resulted in some of their untimely ends. Griffith's time was no different as similar misfortunes continued and he even reported seeing ghostly specters haunting the property at night. Reportedly hoping to escape the curse, Griffith donated the land to the city in 1896.

Some allege that it did little good, as Griffith's eccentricities were only exacerbated during his ownership of the property. Only seven years after his donation, Griffith accused his wife Christina of conspiring with the Pope to poison him and shot her in the head. She survived the attack, but Griffith's lawyers were able to use his stature in the community to secure him a short two-year prison sentence. Following his incarceration, Griffith tried to repair his name by donating money for the observatory, an amphitheater, and more at the park, but he was turned down by the city who did not want to associate with a known felon. Only after his death in 1919 did the city relent and accept Griffith's final gifts to the city. Griffith J. Griffith was laid to rest at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Click here to read about more personalities at Hollywood Forever.

-Casey H.

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