East Lawn mausoleum includes a variety of historical artwork
Editor’s Note: This is part five in a series about the rich history of and associated with East Sacramento’s award-winning East Lawn Memorial Park.
Since its earliest years in the 1920s, the mausoleum at East Lawn Memorial Park has attracted attention for its size, beauty and functionality. And part of the attraction to the building is its artwork.
The most popular portion of this structure’s artwork is its 56 stained glass windows.
Forty-eight of these windows are located in the older corridors of the main building and most of the windows have garden or flower themes.
The largest of these windows are the three 6 ½-foot by 10-foot windows that are located in the south corridor.
Craig Peterson, manager of East Lawn Memorial Park, recently discussed various details about these artistic glass pieces.
In regard to the rich colors of these windows, Peterson said, “The process of creating the windows included paint mixed with ground glass that was painted onto glass and fired at 1,200 degrees. That process was repeated several times to get the right color, the right intensity that the artist wished to have.”
And after being asked who created these notable art pieces, Peterson explained that although East Lawn has various information pertaining to that topic, the cemetery’s management continues to seek specific historical details about the windows in order to answer that question in its entirety.
“We had a local appraiser (Sylvia M. Fitzgerald) come in to appraise the glass for our insurance company and this was about 10 years ago,” Peterson said. “At that time, she didn’t find any type of identification on the windows. She thought they looked kind of Tiffany style and she said she would try to do some research and find out more about the windows. A few years back, she was appraising one of the homes here in East Sac in the Fabulous Forties and she found this window. She said, ‘It looks like an East Lawn window.’ So, she asked the man (Karl DeMund Pape), who was selling the house, if he knew anything about the windows in the house. He said, ‘Oh, my grandfather (Clarence DeMund Todd) made them.’ And he said that his grandfather also made the windows here at East Lawn. Additionally, he sent us a biography about his grandfather.”
Part of the biography, which appears in the 1923 book, “History of Sacramento County, California,” reads: “(Todd) engaged in lampshade work following his high art trade in Philadelphia and also in New York, where he had a good fortune to be associated with Mssrs. Tiffany & Co.”
The biography also mentions that Todd moved to Sacramento in 1912.
About a year later, Todd established his business, Sacramento Art Glass Works, which for the latter half of its years was located at 1610 J St. The business closed in 1936 and Todd passed away six years later at the age of 55.
In regard to some of the notable projects of the company, the 1923 biography refers to the business as having supplied glass and glasswork for St. Elizabeth Portuguese Catholic Church, the Church of the Immaculate Conception and the local Presbyterian and Wesleyan churches, and art glass and metal lights in many Sacramento area homes.
The biography also noted that Todd handled the W.P. Fuller Co. glasswork in Northern California and Nevada, and “contracted for all the art glass required for certain storefronts in town.”
In his own writings about his grandfather, Pape noted that Todd created the art glass windows in the old Alhambra Theatre.
“I remember my grandmother taking me to the Alhambra Theatre and getting in free,” Pape wrote. “She had a lifetime pass from my grandfather’s work.”
Pape, whose grandfather and parents are entombed at East Lawn Memorial Park, also noted that his grandfather created the glasswork for the light towers that were located on the 16th Street Bridge prior to its widening in the 1960s.
Peterson explained that he eventually made an interesting discovery related to the mausoleum’s stained glass windows.
“I was digging through an old file cabinet in the (mausoleum’s) tower and I found all of these letters from the Pearson Art Glass Co. in Portland, Ore., and they talk about the windows,” Peterson said. “Here’s one that deals with the Clunie window. In that letter and in some of the other letters, he references Mr. Todd here locally. But from what I can tell, Clarence Todd did the measurements and installed the windows in the family rooms on the north side of the east and west corridors. These windows were made in Portland, Ore. and were shipped down here.”
Unfortunately, for history’s sake, East Lawn has not discovered any paperwork in its own archives pertaining to the manufacturers of its other stained glass windows, including any Todd-made windows.
The aforementioned letters, which were a correspondence between Pearson and East Lawn manager Frank Seymour Baillie, also note that Pearson and Todd were working together on a stained glass process that they referred to as “etchwood.”
In pondering Todd and Pearson’s careers, Peterson said, “One question I have is did Clarence Todd and Mr. Pearson work together with Tiffany in New York and come out here, one going to Portland and one coming to Sacramento? The windows were painted and made in Portland, but as several glass people have stated when they came in here to give us bids on repairing the glass, these look like Tiffany windows. The colorful reds, the styles of how they’re painted, everything looks Tiffany-esque. So, if (the windows) were actually made in Portland, did Pearson also work with Tiffany? We don’t know, but that’s a guess.”
Peterson also speculated that Todd and Pearson may have been introduced to each other by Portland, Ore. resident Ernest M. Welch, president of the Welch Holding Co., which purchased East Lawn Cemetery in the mid-1920s.
Also located in the mausoleum are 15 pen and ink drawings, two charcoal drawings and three watercolor artworks that all have East Lawn themes.
The pen and ink drawings were created for a contest in about 1929.
The winner of the contest, which was designed to establish a replacement logo for East Lawn’s original unlit candle logo, was Bob Thrall.
However, for some reason, a non-contest art piece was used as East Lawn’s then-new logo.
Thrall, who submitted two drawings in the contest, was awarded $25 for his winning entry. He later attended the University of California, Berkeley.
Receiving the $15 second place award was Richard Dodge, who submitted four drawings.
Dodge, who became a printmaker and painter and exhibited his artworks in Sacramento and Oakland, attended Los Angeles’ Art Center School (today’s Art Center College of Design) and the Art Academy of Cincinnati.
The contest’s third place winner was Charles Bell, who was awarded $10.
Bell, who submitted three drawings, studied art at Sacramento Junior College (today’s Sacramento City College) in the 1930s before becoming a noted residential and commercial builder.
Another art student at the college was George Labadie, who submitted three drawings in the contest.
Labadie attended Los Angeles’ Chouinard Art Institute – a school that merged into the California Institute of Arts in 1969 – and later became an art director of an advertising agency.
The remaining artists who submitted drawings in the contest were Irene Ough, Earl Lightfoot and Norman Neilsen.
Peterson said that, unfortunately, East Lawn has no knowledge of the history of the cemetery’s three watercolor and two charcoal drawings.
And he added that although East Lawn is unaware of the history of the mausoleum’s two oil paintings, it is known that the paintings were created by William F. Jackson (1850-1936), who resided at 1622 G St. and served as the first curator of the E.B. Crocker Art Gallery – today’s Crocker Art Museum.
The paintings, which measure 31 ¾ inches x 26 ½ inches and 15 ½ inches by 21 inches, depict meadow lake and mountain scenes in the Sierra Nevada.
In reflecting upon the cemetery’s art collection, Peterson said, “(East Lawn, Inc. President) Alan Fisher and the senior management of East Lawn consider it a privilege to be the current custodians of this treasured collection of artwork.”