Cemetery Travel in San Francisco

The time has come to gather all the San Francisco cemetery pieces spread across Cemetery Travel into one place. These posts served as research for the Laurel Hill Cemetery speech I gave at the Swedish American Hall last night. If you’re visiting Cemetery Travel from last night’s Memento Mori event, welcome.

This list of links does not yet tell the complete story of San Francisco’s eviction of its dead. I’m very close to finishing a new book with the working title of The Pioneer Cemeteries of the San Francisco Bay Area, which will go into much more detail — and have more pictures. My search for a publisher will begin shortly. Stay tuned!

A selection of the graveyards of San Francisco:

BroderickLone Mountain001

Image from a stereoview card of Senator David Broderick’s obelisk in Lone Mountain Cemetery, San Francisco, 1866

Former Laurel Hill Cemetery site:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2014/09/03/cemetery-of-the-week-145-the-ghost-of-san-franciscos-laurel-hill/

Former Russian Hill cemetery site:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2014/01/08/cemetery-of-the-week-119-san-franciscos-russian-hill/

Former Marine Hospital Cemetery memorial:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2012/11/14/cemetery-of-the-week-83-united-states-marine-hospital-cemetery/

Mission Dolores:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2011/04/27/cemetery-of-the-week-13-mission-dolores-cemetery/

Neptune Society Columbarium at the former Odd Fellows Cemetery:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2011/08/31/cemetery-of-the-week-30-the-san-francisco-columbarium/

Thomas Starr King’s grave:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2012/09/25/weekly-photo-challenge-solitary/

San Francisco National Cemetery:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2013/02/20/cemetery-of-the-week-91-san-francisco-national-cemetery/

Where San Franciscans were moved to in Colma:

Cypress Lawn obelisk001

An obelisk marks the Pioneer Mound at Cypress Lawn

Cypress Lawn Memorial Park:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2012/04/11/cemetery-of-the-week-55-cypress-lawn-memorial-park/

Home of Peace:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2014/05/07/cemetery-of-the-week-135-temple-emanu-els-home-of-peace/

Hills of Eternity:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2013/11/13/cemetery-of-the-week-116-wyatt-earps-gravesite/

Woodlawn Memorial Park:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2013/01/02/cemetery-of-the-week-85-the-gravesite-of-emperor-norton/

Olivet Memorial Park:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2018/04/04/cemetery-of-the-week-165-olivet-memorial-park/

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Memento Mori evening

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 12.01.38 PMTuesday, April 17, I’ll be participating in the citywide Reimagine End of Life festival across San Francisco from April 16-22. The evening I’m part of is called Memento Mori.

Memento Mori is an ancient Roman phrase meaning “Remember Your Mortality.” Come experience a night of amazing creators sharing their work and unique backstories on the topic of mortality, loss, memory, and love.

The lineup for Memento Mori is:

  • investigation of the history of the lost cemeteries of SF – Loren Rhoads
  • Emotions and the end of life ( Fear and Panic) from the Western Psychological Point of view, how secular Buddhism can help (Separate-Selflessness and Impermanence) – Dr. Paul Ekman and Dr. Eve Ekman
  • death of neighborhoods and the effect on the people that live there – Liz Ogbu
  • the art of shadow puppetry and the stories within -Daniel Barash
  • a poignant visual symphony covering a recent police shooting of a young man, from a healing mother’s perspective – Angelica Ekeke
  • tracing the roots of the themes of dying, death and mourning at the end of life, and how we can deal with it – Dr. September Williams
  • and a thought provoking look at the sound in hospitals and how it effects our ability to heal and to die in peace….Yoko Sen

You can get tickets here: https://letsreimagine.org/event-share/5/event/487

You can find the whole Reimagine End of Life schedule here: https://letsreimagine.org/san-francisco/schedule/all.

 

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Mississippi Churchyards

Country ChurchyardsCountry Churchyards by Eudora Welty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a charming little book this is! It contains 90 black-and-white photographs, snapped by the grand dame of Southern literature in Mississippi churchyards during in the 1930s and 40s. “Mississippi,” she said, “had no art except cemeteries.”

Miss Welty merely trained her lens on whatever interested her. Angels appear more often than any other figure. One unusual stone that I particularly like is coffin-shaped, sheltering a moon-faced girl with staring eyes. She bears the outline of her life written on a tablet on her chest. I’ve never seen anything else like it. There’s a life-sized rendition of the Old Rugged Cross, complete with clinging virgin. Several stone dogs guard their masters’ graves. A whole flock of lambs sleep atop children’s graves, including a startled sheep whose eyes bug out at the camera.

Amongst the photographs, excerpts from Welty’s fiction and essays appear, along with her reminiscences of the photographing trips which were recorded in her 90th year.

As Welty’s friend Elizabeth Spencer notes in her introduction, all of Welty’s art — whether photography, fiction, or essays — “is an effort to rescue life from oblivion.” These lovely photos definitely serve that function. It’s noted at one point that these memorials have suffered decades of winter and abuse since Welty snapped her photos. It’s likely that if any of these sculptures still survive, they are worse for wear. Welty preserved them. This book, like a time machine, brings them into the present.

Although the hardcover book is 18 years old, it’s still available on Amazon both used and new.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

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Cemetery Photos from the Library of Congress

CemeteriesCemeteries by Keith Eggener

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not sure why this book is so expensive. Yes, it’s full of black and white photographs, but really, $75? It’s not worth that.

Assembled from the Library of Congress’s photo archives, Cemeteries is a “visual sourcebook” of images of American graveyards taken by families, news photographers, stereograms, advertisers, and government agencies. Sections focus on gates, grave markers, mausoleums, and other details of graveyards — which is what I bought the book for and its most useful attribute.

Unfortunately, the author assembling the photos got lazy. Rather than show a variety of African Americans working in cemeteries across the country, he includes a series of photos of the same people in the same cemetery. I would’ve found comparison and contrast more interesting than depth, especially since the depth is at odds from the way the rest of the book is put together. The same cemeteries and photographers do keep coming up over and over more than is truly necessary in other sections, but “Comings and Goings in the Silent City” is the most repetitive. It’s disappointing.

If you are a cemetery fanatic, you might need to have this book (you can get it discounted on Amazon). The historical overview in the first section is particularly useful. The photos throughout lean toward documentary rather than art, but if you bring a fair amount of knowledge to the book, it will reward you, even as it frustrates you. It could have been really spectacular. Instead, it seems rushed.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

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Cemetery of the Week #165: Olivet Memorial Park

IMG_9344Olivet Memorial Park
Also called Mount Olivet Cemetery
1601 Hillside Boulevard
Colma, California 94014
Telephone: (650) 755-0322
Established: 1896
Size: 65 acres
Number of Interments: 100,000

At the foot of San Bruno Mountain in the cemetery town of Colma lies Olivet Memorial Park, which proclaims itself as a “Cemetery for All Faiths.” It was founded as Mount Olivet Cemetery by Austen Walrath (buried here in 1902) with the backing of the Abbey Land and Improvement Company.

San Francisco architect William H. Crim Jr. designed the Old English Abbey Chapel, as well as the Columbarium and “Incinerary.” Cremation began at Olivet as early as 1911. Since then, the cemetery has cremated more than 45,000 people.

Some of its earliest cremation retorts were designed by Mattrup Jensen, who took over as superintendent from Walrath. Jensen’s crematory retorts were used by cemeteries across the US. He believed that Colma cemeteries should be designed to look like outdoor cathedrals. Jensen eventually became the first mayor of Lawndale, before the town changed its name to Colma.

The striking 18-foot-tall black granite monument to the Sailors Union of the Pacific was sculpted by John Stoll. It bears the legend: “And the sea shall give up its dead — from every latitude here rest our brothers of the Sailors Union of the Pacific.” California governor Earl Warren dedicated the sculpture in 1946 to remember the 6,000 merchant marines who died over the course of World War II. Many others have been buried in the plot since.

IMG_9342Another monument remembers the Showfolks of America. The national organization, made up of circus or carnival people, held conventions in San Francisco after 1945. The area around the clown-faced monument is known as Showmen’s Rest. It was filled with clowns and other performers by the 1990s.

When he was captured near Oroville in 1911, the man called Ishi was believed to be the last survivor of the Yahi tribe. Called “the last survivor of Stone Age California,” he was brought to the University of California in San Francisco, where he lived until his death of tuberculosis in 1916. He never revealed his true name. Alfred Kroeber, the anthropologist who studied him, called him Ishi, which simply means man in Yahi. He was cremated at Olivet and the cemetery’s columbarium held his remains in a “modest dark vase set on a dark green marble base.” He may have created his own burial urn.

After his death, his brain had been removed during an autopsy. The brain was rediscovered by anthropologists in the Smithsonian Institution in 1997. It was reunited with his ashes and transferred to an undisclosed location.

 

Also buried here is Arthur “Doc” Barker, the youngest member of the Barker gang. He was arrested for the last time in January 1935 for the kidnapping of Minnesota banker Edward G. Bremer. After Barker was transferred to Alcatraz, he died leading an escape attempt in 1939, when he was shot in the head. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Olivet’s unendowed Cosmos Plot.

Another Alcatraz inmate, Joseph “Dutch” Bowers, was arrested for robbing a post office in 1931. He was the first inmate to attempt escape when he climbed a fence in front of the guards and was shot and killed in April 1936. Other inmates believed that Alcatraz had driven him crazy. Bowers is buried in an unmarked grave.

Silent film actress Marguerite de La Motte appeared in over 50 films. She worked with Douglas Fairbanks in The Mark of Zorro and The Three Musketeers, but made only four talking pictures before she retired from the film business. She died in 1950 at the age of 47 and was cremated here. She has a modest niche in the columbarium.

Singer Danniebelle Hall, who died in 2000, combined gospel with dance music. Her epitaph in the mausoleum proclaims her “The Designer’s Original.”

Useful link:

Michael Svanevik talks about Olivet in his book City of Souls: San Francisco’s Necropolis at Colma.

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