Charles Phoenix’s Slide of the Week: Angeles Abbey, Compton, CA, 1955

phoenix compton castle
Three palms on one side, two on the other and an almost-centered flagless flagpole compliment one of Southern California’s least known architectural treasures.

According to the legend the builder of the Angeles Abbey Memorial Park sent two architects to India in 1922 for inspiration. Two years later this Byzantine-Moorish-Spanish hybrid style Castle-esque mausoleum, was standing in stark contrast in the middle of a patchwork quilt homes and of small farms in one of Los Angeles’ oldest suburban cities.

I discovered this amazing place quite by chance one day about a decade or so ago when I got a bee in my bonnet to go check out my mother’s childhood home in Compton. After driving back and forth a few times in front of the ’ol house and being reminded of some of my earliest childhood memories I decided to drive around the neighborhood. Two short blocks later I found this. I was shocked! I drove around the tombstone decorated grounds a bit but was too chicken to get out and go inside.

A couple of months later I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer so decided to go back and this time go in. Walking inside felt like walking into a European Cathedral. Spectacular old world style hand painted motifs repeating on walls, wood beams, and balconies were peeling from age. Stained glass windows colorized the late afternoon sunbeams that illuminated the one thousand crypts. In a dusty room upstairs urns filled floor to ceiling glass front cabinets. Another room housed babies and children.

And as if one castle in Compton isn’t enough there is another one behind it. The second little tower that you see sticking up on the right is actually on the slightly smaller sister mausoleum behind this one. It was built in the late ’20s.

Discovering architectural treasures and oddities is always a joy to behold. But finding them in places where they are least expected is even better. Angeles Abbey is located at 1515 E. Compton Blvd. Compton, CA 90221-3499. Call first to make sure they are open: (310) 631-1141.

Here’s to The Angeles Abbey, treasures in unexpected places, and YOU!

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