I spent last year’s Nanowrimo working on a book about the historic cemeteries of the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve visited a lot of them, but not nearly all, so I made myself a list of places I need to see. Ideally, I could find someone to give me a tour, show me the highlights, and ground my research for each one.
In early February, Annetta Black — mastermind of the Obscura Society in San Francisco — wrote to ask if I’d consider giving cemetery tours for the group.
I am qualified to lead cemetery wanders, but not tours. My knowledge of our local graveyards is broad, rather than deep. However, I would be thrilled to arrange tours for anyone interested in learning more about cemeteries — and now I am.
This Sunday, March 23, the Obscura Society is touring one of my favorite local cemeteries: the Rose Hill Cemetery at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. This cemetery was almost completely obliterated by vandals and the well-intentioned preservation tactics of early park employees. It has been painstaking puzzled back together through the love and service of the more recent rangers and historians.
The cemetery is about all that survives of the five coal-mining ghost towns on the eastern slopes of Mount Diablo. It’s a reminder of how different the past was from the present, even though it’s barely 150 years distant.
Tickets are still available, if you’d like to explore for yourself. Here’s the link: http://www.atlasobscura.com/events/obscura-society-sf-rose-hill-cemetery-tour
In April, we’re going to explore Mare Island’s ship-building history and the first naval cemetery on the West Coast. I’ll let you know when those tickets are available.
Now I’m working on the May tour. I think we’re looking at Memorial Day weekend, so it will be a tour closer in to San Francisco and Oakland. I was thinking maybe the San Francisco National Cemetery in the Presidio, which will be pretty with all the graves decorated with flags.
In the works are tours of St. John’s Cemetery in San Mateo, the Rural Cemetery in Santa Rosa, and a walking tour of the vanished cemeteries of San Francisco. I’m going to lead that one myself.
Is there anywhere you’ve been particularly interested in touring? Any Bay Area graveyard that caught your eye that you’d like to know more about?