A Tomb With a View


The view of the Pacific from Ronald Colman's grave.

As a true taphophile, one who loves exploring cemeteries, Halloween week seems like a good time to write about one of my favorite burial grounds, the Santa Barbara Cemetery.

This cemetery is great because it’s got all the things that a graveyard should have – interesting residents, above-ground monuments, fine artwork, beautiful well-kept lawns – and in the case of Santa Barbara Cemetery, an unsurpassed view of the Pacific Ocean. Its sixty acres have been described as “the first choice for a last destination.”

Santa Barbara Cemetery lies on the border of Montecito, the high-rent district that serves as home to Oprah Winfrey, Kevin Costner and other luminaries, who live in nearby eight-figure properties. Land developers no doubt rue the choice made in 1867 to put the burial grounds on a spot that would today bring millions to subdividers.

The cemetery has avoided the “Forest Lawn-ization” of American graveyards by allowing above-ground monuments. The chapel also contains frescoes created by world-renowned artist Alfredo Ramos Martinez.

Most of the cemetery’s rich and famous can be found on pricey plots with an ocean view that start at around $83,000. Its here that recently-deceased Fess Parker was interred in a plot alongside his parents. Parker’s grave has the image of a coonskin hat which he made famous playing Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone on television. Baseball Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews rests nearby.

The cemetery, like Santa Barbara itself, is home to several British actors. Distinguished thespian Ronald Coleman rests beneath a dark rectangular monument that has a quote from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Laurence Harvey, who is most famous for his portrayal of Raymond Shaw in The Manchurian Candidate, is buried with his daughter Domino, who was the subject of her own recent biopic, which starred Keira Knightley. British character actor Norma Varden’s ashes are in a niche in the columbarium and actress Virginia Cherrill’s tomb can be found inside the chapel. While not technically British, the American-born Cherrill is British by association, having been discovered by Charlie Chaplin, and married to Cary Grant and the Earl of Jersey.

So the next time you’re motoring down the 101 and you want to hang out with Davy Crockett and Britain’s rich and regal, stop in at the Santa Barbara Cemetery. I promise you a view “to die for.”

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About deadwrite

Freelance writer, film historian, taphophile View all posts by deadwrite

2 responses to “A Tomb With a View

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