Monthly Archives: May 2014

Cemetery of the Week #136: Lone Fir Cemetery

The Soldiers' Monument at Lone Fir.

The Soldiers’ Monument at Lone Fir.

Lone Fir Cemetery
SE 26th Avenue and Stark Street
Portland, Oregon 97214
Telephone: (503) 224-9200
Established: 1846
Formally dedicated: 1855
Size: 30.5 acres
Number of interments: 25,000 (at least)

Portland’s lovely Lone Fir Cemetery began in 1846 with the burial of Emmor Stephens, father of a man who owned property nearby and rests there now. In 1854, victims of a steamship accident were buried near him and the ground was formally dedicated as a cemetery in 1855.

Many Oregon pioneers are buried in graves that are no longer marked. There may be as many as 10,000 unknowns buried here. Some of these are Chinese laborers. The men intended that, after their bodies had been buried a suitable length of time, their bones would be exhumed, scraped of flesh, bundled together, and sent home to China. A large number of them still reside in their “temporary” graves.

Dr. Hawthorne's obelisk

Dr. Hawthorne’s obelisk

A tall obelisk marks the grave of Dr. James C. Hawthorne, who cared for the insane shortly after Oregon achieved statehood. He opened the Oregon Hospital for the Insane in 1862 and cared gently for his patients, who were allowed time outdoors and musical performances. If patients – who were often abandoned by their families – died at the hospital, Dr. Hawthorne saw that they had a decent burial at Lone Fir. 132 of them rest there now.

Among them, in an unmarked grave, rests Charity Lamb, who murdered her husband with an axe as he sat down to dinner with the family. She had hoped to escape an abusive situation, but was instead convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in the Oregon State Penitentiary, where she was the only female prisoner. Eventually she was released to Dr. Hawthorne’s asylum, where she died.

Here lies a Woodsman of the World.

Here lies a Woodsman of the World.

Lone Fir has a good number of beautiful tree stump graves. One might suspect that the men remembered by these stones had been loggers, especially since many of them say “Woodsman of the World,” but in fact the stones were purchased from an early burial insurance company.

Another lovely grave at Lone Fir has been badly vandalized. Not much seems to be known about 31-year-old Paul G. Lind, except that he liked to play Scrabble. You can see photos of his unique monument at Findagrave. None of the letters are left in place now.

Once this was a beautiful tiled Scrabble board.

Once this was a beautiful tiled Scrabble board.


Scottish immigrant Donald MacLeay invested in the Oregon railroads and was the President of US National Bank of Portland, which became USBancorp. He commissioned a mausoleum after his first wife died. It was completed in 1877 for $13,500. He survived for two more decades before he joined her. Unfortunately, the winters have been hard on the mausoleum and its stone is flaking away. It looks spooky and has appeared in several movies.

The MacLeay mausoleum

The MacLeay mausoleum

Even with the ravages of time and vandalism, Lone Fir is breathtaking. When I visited last weekend, the chestnut trees were in glorious bloom and the rhododendron at the Soldiers’ Monument smelled like heaven. Squirrels played, birds sang, and everywhere I looked was bright with shades of green. National Geographic magazine named Lone Fir one of the Top Ten Cemeteries to visit in the world.

Mad as the Mist and Snow: Exploring Oregon through its Cemeteries (which I’ll review tomorrow) says, “If you choose only one cemetery to visit in Oregon, this should be it.” As it was the only cemetery I’ve visited in Oregon so far, I can’t speak to the reality of that statement. I can only tell you that Lone Fir is spectacular in the spring. I am so glad I didn’t miss it.

The Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery offer tours beginning at the Soldiers’ Monument every second Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. They also offer headstone-cleaning workshops. Their calendar of events is here.

In fact, the Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery’s website tells the tales of pioneers, prostitutes, shanghai captains, mayors, governors, and preservationists buried in the graveyard. It’s worth reading their biographies even if you can’t make it to Portland to pay your regards in person.

Useful links:

History of Lone Fir Cemetery

The Portland Metro government page on Lone Fir Cemetery

The Lone Fir Cemetery Foundation is raising money for restoration work.

National Geographic’s list of the 10 Best Cemeteries in the World

Notes from one of the Halloween tours of Lone Fir

A news report on vandalism in 2013


Cemetery of the Week #135: Temple Emanu-El’s Home of Peace

A view in Home of Peace

A view in Home of Peace

Home of Peace (Navai Shalome)
1299 El Camino Real
Colma, California 94014
Telephone: (650) 755-4700
Established: January 1, 1888
Size: 20 “graciously landscaped” acres at the foot of the San Bruno Mountains, according to the cemetery’s website.
Number of interments: More than 20,000 (according to A Self-Guided Tour of Colma Cemeteries by Frances Liston, undated)
Open: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday through Friday. Closed on Saturdays, major Jewish Holy Days, and secular holidays.

As early as 1848, Jewish settlers in San Francisco set aside land bounded by Vallejo, Broadway, Franklin, and Gough Streets in the current Pacific Heights neighborhood (then on the edge of town) for a graveyard called the Emanuel Hart Cemetery. In the early days of the Gold Rush, if a Jewish miner died in the diggings, it was important that his friends send his body to San Francisco to be buried with other Jews.

Traders and merchants from Bavaria founded Congregation Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco in 1850. Many of the members had come west for the Gold Rush, but found the money was better if they served the burgeoning populace providing hats, boots, and clothing, as well as importing dry goods from relatives on the East Coast.

After the population exploded in the 1850s, the edges of the city of San Francisco encroached on the Jewish pioneers’ graveyard. The bodies of early Jewish settlers were exhumed in 1860 and moved to a new two-acre graveyard, called Home of Peace, near the old Mission. It was bounded by 18th and 19th Streets and Church and Dolores, where Dolores Park is now. Photographs of the era show a beautiful sloping cemetery full of bright white marble monuments. Historian Michael Svanevik said in City of Souls that this Home of Peace became “San Francisco’s most prestigious Hebrew burial ground.”

Whether due to the pressure of an ever-expanding population or to anti-Semitic vandalism (as Svanevik suggested in a lecture given at Cypress Lawn Cemetery in August 2001, the congregation of Temple Emanu-El began to look for a permanent burial ground. In 1888, Temple president Martin Heller arranged to buy 73 acres of land in northern San Mateo County from the Catholic Archbishop Patrick Riordan. The area would later become known as Colma.

As soon as the original deed of purchase was signed in 1887, bodies began to be moved from the Dolores Park cemetery to this new Home of Peace. All of the bodies and headstones were carefully moved. Each corpse was reburied in an individual grave, as opposed to the mass reburials in the Gentile graveyards. In all, an estimated 13,000 pioneers were reburied, although many of them no longer had markers. The original markers that did survive are still visible in the back of Home of Peace, where families were buried together whenever possible. The final body was reinterred in 1910 and the former cemetery land in San Francisco was sold for development. The city turned it into Dolores Park.

Home of Peace in Colma is the largest Jewish cemetery in Northern California, founded by the largest Jewish congregation in Northern California. The cemetery contains some of the most beautiful private family tombs in Colma.


Levi Strauss’s mausoleum

After he made his fortune selling rivet-strengthened blue denim trousers to the Forty-Niners, Levi Strauss built a beautiful white-domed tomb, valued at $48,000, in 1908. It features a bust of Fanny Stern, his mother, which is said to have been commissioned from Auguste Rodin.

San Francisco’s 21st mayor, philanthropist “Silver King” Adolph Sutro — who gave the city the Cliff House, Sutro Baths, Sutro Heights, and eucalyptus-covered Mount Sutro behind the University of California San Francisco campus on Parnassus — built a massive underground vault in Home of Peace for his estranged wife Leah and other members of his family. His ashes, as well as those of his daughter Emma were buried on the grounds of his home at Point Lobos, now called Sutro Heights Park. Judy Edmonson, General Manager of Home of Peace Cemetery, said in a tour in 2008 that Sutro’s ashes had recently been located during repair work on the Heights. The website Found SF reports that the urn full of ashes had been removed from the hillside and now resides with a family member.


The grave of Adolph Sutro’s family

Other important San Franciscans buried in Home of Peace include Isais Wolf Hellman (one of the founders of Wells Fargo Bank), members of the Zellerbach family (of Crown Zellerbach Corporation, the second largest wood pulp and paper business in the world), Aaron Fleishhacker (who came out during the Gold Rush and found his fortune manufacturing boxes), Ignatz Steinhart (a philanthropist for whom the aquarium in Golden Gate Park is named), and Walter Wanger, a Hollywood movie director who started the careers of Rudolph Valentino, Claudette Colbert, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton, and Elizabeth Taylor. Alice B. Toklas’s parents are buried here, too.

The Home of Peace mausoleum opened in 1936, designed in the Byzantine Revival style by Wayne S. Hertzka (also buried there) and William E. Knowles. The mausoleum’s red-tiled dome, marble interior, and torpedo-globed chandeliers evoke Congregation Emanu-El’s temple at the corner of Lake Street and Arguello Boulevard in San Francisco, which had been inspired by the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The mausoleum and its chapel were remodeled by Mae and Benjamin H. Swig in the 1980s.

Home of Peace is “dedicated to serving all families of the Jewish faith.” One didn’t — and doesn’t — need to be a member of the congregation of Temple Emanu-El to be buried there. In fact, the graveyard provides burial sections for Congregation Beth Shalom, Peninsula Temple Sholom of Burlingame, and World War II veterans from the former Soviet Union.

Some of the cemetery’s un-landscaped area is used to grow organic produce for the San Francisco Food Bank. According to the Images of America book Jewish San Francisco, the Peah Garden donated 30,000 pounds of vegetables to the Food Bank in 2005, the largest contribution of fresh produce that year.

Useful links:
Temple Emanu-El history

Temple Emanu-El page for Home of Peace

The Jewish Cemeteries of Colma home page

My review of Permanent Californians: An Illustrated Guide to the Cemeteries of California

My review of Images of America: Colma

Other Colma cemeteries on Cemetery Travel:

Cypress Lawn Memorial Park

Woodlawn Memorial Park

Hills of Eternity, which shares the entryway with Home of Peace in Colma.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring

Letty Lent’s gravestone at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Tarrytown, NY

In the spring of 2002, about this time of year, I took one of the best vacations of my life.  My husband Mason and I flew into Boston and rented a car, then we proceeded to visit 17 cemeteries in the next 11 days.  It was heavenly.

Boston was humid and bright.  We rested in the Central Burying Ground in the afternoon, watching squirrels chase each other with sticks.  The next day, on our way out of town, we stopped by Forest Hills Cemetery, where the forsythia bloomed in thickets.  Spring was coming, but it was early yet.

The Aylsworth family monument

The Aylsworth family monument

From Boston we drove to Providence.  One of the hills in Swan Point Cemetery burned with bright yellow daffodils. In addition, Swan Point had the most magnificent flowering trees I’ve ever seen.  To this day, I’ve seen nothing to compare with this weeping cherry.

Some cemeteries we visited were fascinating, if not especially pretty.  Gettysburg’s Soldiers National Cemetery seemed too macho to trouble itself with celebrating the season and breaking out in flowers.

That was not the case in Sleepy Hollow.  The perfumed air chimed with the songs of birds.  The river chattered to itself nearby, surrounded by trees bursting with vivid green leaves.  Spring made everything glad to be alive, especially me.

While I grew up in Michigan, spring felt like something you earned.  After the long gray winter, you pined for spring.  You celebrated every warm day, even if there were still snowdrifts in the shadows of the hills.  Every narcissus shoot and tulip stalk was worthy of celebration.  Spring was glorious, ephemeral, juicy and sweet.

In San Francisco, spring can be subtle.  In a normal year, the hills green up with every rainstorm.  The trees bloom in waves: the cherries, then the plums, then the apples.  Often a hard rain knocks the petals to the sidewalks before the beauty peaks.  The magnolias open their spectacular flowers, followed by the rhododendrons, the flowers singe in the sunshine — and then the show is over for another year.  The hills turn brown, the fog rolls in, and summer is long and cold.

My East Coast trip gave me almost two weeks of nothing but graveyards in springtime in the company of my husband.  Every moment was piquant and delicious and I savored them like you do the season’s first strawberries, bursting with sweetness and spring.

Here’s the challenge that started me off: Spring.