I’m giving my first lecture about cemeteries as travel destinations this weekend! Cypress Lawn Cemetery, one of the most beautiful local cemeteries, invited me to speak about my travels around the world to see graveyards.
Cypress Lawn calls me the “ultimate cemetery believer and enthusiast” who has “embarked upon a mission to make cemeteries a travel destination once again.” Come add some graveyards to your must-see list and share your favorite cemetery travel destinations.
The free lecture begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 15th at Cypress Lawn Cemetery, 1370 El Camino Real, Daly City, California 94014. Light refreshments will be served. To RSVP or for more information, call 650-550-8810.
Several years ago, I took a graveyard tour in the springtime, driving from Boston to Philadelphia and back to New York City. I saw 17 cemeteries in 10 days, each lovelier than the last. So my question to you is: where is the best place to revel in spring?
I’m limited by the poll-making program to 10 responses, so I merely listed the first 10 beautiful graveyards that came to mind. I know I’ve missed many, many more. Please point up the omissions in the comments.
Also, you can feel free to vote for more than one in the following list.
Finally, this poll doesn’t record your identity, so no worries there. I’m just curious to see what springtime cemeteries I should add to my must-see list.
California’s Colma is unique in the U.S. as a city founded to safeguard the rights of the dead. This little book traces Colma’s history from a fog-bound valley of pig and potato farms to a city of 17 cemeteries with millions of permanent residents.
Colma was founded after burials were banned in San Francisco. Pioneers buried at Mission Dolores, as well as in the Masonic, Odd Fellows, Catholic and Protestant Cemeteries were uprooted and transferred to new graves in the Colma cemeteries.
Each of the Colma cemeteries receives its own brief chapter, spotlighting important or interesting burials, which are marked on a graveyard map. The variety of memorials is astounding — from the millionaire mausoleums of Cypress Lawn to the handmade monuments crowded into Pets Rest, from the Eastern European flavor of the Serbian graveyard to the East Asian texture of the Japanese or Chinese cemeteries — all documented by black-and-white photos. There’s a lot here to delight the eye and entertain the intellect. This little book is a must for anyone interested in cemeteries.
In August 2005, I finally had the pleasure of seeing Trina Lopez’s documentary A Second Final Rest: The History of San Francisco’s Lost Cemeteries. It was worth the wait.
I heard Lopez speak on Halloween (2002?) at the California Historical Society. She showed the most amazing slides of the historical cemeteries of San Francisco, all of which were demolished and thrown into the sea in the 1940s. I’ve known about the travesty since we moved to San Francisco and discovered that the rain gutters in Buena Vista Park were lined with broken headstones — some still legible — but I’d never seen the photo record of the extensive beauty that was lost. Lopez’s research was impeccable. Her passion for the topic burned.
While those elements carried over into the film, it included less of the historic documentation that I would have liked. The focus of the film is interviews Lopez did with seniors who remember playing amidst the crumbling monuments or walking past the tattered clothing unearthed in the excavations. Unfortunately, while those interviews played in voice-overs, we watched the seniors puttering around in the gardens or riding the Muni. I’m sure that was more cost-effective for the filmmaker, but I was disappointed by what might have been.
My favorite part of the film was the interview with Richard Barnes, the photographer who documented the exhumations of the bodies under the Palace of the Legion of Honor’s new gallery space. His comparison of the care taken with the artwork in storage vs. the callous way that the pioneers’ bones were treated served as the heart of the movie.
A Second Final Rest will break your heart. Check it out if you love cemeteries, San Francisco, or history.
The filmmaker’s website has links of historical interest.
At the moment, there aren’t any upcoming showings scheduled, but you can order a copy of the movie on DVD or buy a download from Filmbaby.com.
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