The cemetery was originally planned as a traditional cemetery with headstones, but in the 1920s, new owners brought a different vision to Ferncliff; the cemetery was re-imagined as a less mournful space with simple brass plaques in the place of elaborate tombstones. The first mausoleum was built in 1928. Officially known as the Ferncliff Mausoleum, it is often referred to as the Cathedral of Memories. It was designed by James Baird, who was well-known for designing the Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Joan Crawford and Ed Sullivan are both interned in the Ferncliff Mausoleum.
The Shrine of Memories was the second mausoleum to be built in Ferncliff and was completed in 1956. Basil Rathbone is the most well-known person interned in the Shrine of Memories.
The newest mausoleum at Ferncliff is the Rosewood Mausoleum, which was constructed in 1999. The singer Aaliyah and her father, Michael Haughton, are interned in a separate room in the mausoleum. Cab Calloway is also interned there.
In addition to the three mausoleums, Ferncliff is also home to roughly 40,000 outdoor graves. A number of celebrities are interned in Ferncliff's outdoor area, including Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Thelonious Monk, Paul Robeson, and Lionel Trilling.
The cemetery also includes a crematory, which is responsible for 10% of the cremations in New York state. Among the celebrities cremated at Ferncliff are John Lennon, Jim Henson, and Nicola Tesla.
One of the cemetery's most famous residents, Judy Garland, is no longer interned there. Garland was interned in the Ferncliff Mausoleum from her death in 1969 until 2017, when her remains were moved to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery at the request of her daughter, Liza Minelli.