20 January 2015

The San Francisco Columbarium is located in the Inner Richmond: 20 January 2015

San Francisco has had an interesting history concerning its deceased residents. When gold was discovered in 1849, the gold rush was the catalyst for the beginning of a tremendous influx of people to San Francisco. Many individuals who arrived in San Francisco via sailing ships immediately went to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada where gold was discovered. Some of the immigrants stayed in San Francisco, and some of the men who went to find gold returned to San Francisco. Whatever the case, the population of San Francisco, grew. With an increase in population comes an increase in the number of people who die. It, therefore, became necessary for San Francisco to find additional places to bury the deceased. All eyes turned to the "Outside Lands," the area now known as the Richmond District, the Sunset District, and the Lone Mountain District. The Outside Lands were covered by sand dunes, had few residents, few roads, and no public transportation.

Five large cemeteries were built on the Outside Lands, in what is now known as the Lone Mountain District:

The (San Francisco) City Cemetery was built on the Outside Lands in what is now known as the Outer Richmond.
Two Jewish Cemeteries were built in the Mission District on what is now known as Mission Dolores Park.

A view of the San Francisco Columbarium as seen from Loraine Court.

A map of the locations of the five cemeteries in what is now known as the Lone Mountain District. The cemetery sites are now covered by houses, apartments, stores, roads and a college.

 As the population continued to increase San Francisco required more buildings to accommodate the rising population. Since San Francisco is located at the tip of a peninsula, the amount of useable land is finite. Starting in 1900, San Francisco did not allow any more burials within the city limits. Most people who died after 1900 were buried in Colma, a small town south of San Francisco. Colma has a current population of approximately 1,800 people... And it also has more than two million bodies buried in or stored on, the many cemeteries that are located within Colma. Starting in the early Twentieth Century, San Francisco proceeded to remove the remains of the deceased from the cemeteries in the city. More than 50,000 human remains were removed from San Francisco and reinterred in one of the numerous cemeteries located in Colma. After the bodies had been removed, homes, apartments, stores, schools, and parks were constructed on the sites of the former cemeteries.

The San Francisco Columbarium was designed by Bernard J. Cahill, a British architect. It was constructed in 1897 and was open to the public in 1898. The Columbarium was built on land that was part of the 168 acres Odd Fellows' Cemetery. Of the five cemeteries that were once located in the Richmond District, the San Francisco Columbarium is now the only remaining structure. 
About four months ago, I became aware that the San Francisco Columbarium was still standing; it was on my list of places to visit. As I was heading east on Geary Boulevard, I saw the Columbarium. I soon met Emmitt Watson, who has been the caretaker of the Columbarium for the past 28 years. He is a pleasant man, and he provided me with information about the Columbarium.
If you are interested in visiting the Columbarium, please note that the entry is on Loraine Court.

An interior view of the San Francisco Columbarium's copper-covered roof.

A happy man is feeding the birds at Stow Lake, Golden Gate Park.

A detail of the Spreckels Temple of Music, aka the "Bandshell." It was built in 1899 and named for Claus Spreckels. It is located within Golden Gate Park.

Two gorgeous Nineteenth Century homes located on California Street.

An attractive apartment building which appears to have been built in the 1920s or 1930s. It is located on California Street.

Old Saint Mary's Cathedral was built in 1854. When it opened, it was the tallest building in San Francisco and all of California. Under the clock face appears the words "Son, Observe the Time and Fly from Evil." This statement was aimed at the men who frequented the surrounding brothels during the 1850s. The building is located on the northeast corner of California Street and Grant Avenue.

A map of the route. The approximate distance traveled as tracked by GPS was 8.6 miles. The approximate cumulative elevation gain was 584 feet. Mile markers are shown on the course’s track.

This graph shows the elevation changes encountered during the ramble.


"A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.” Dorothea Lange 

"Photography has not changed since its origin except in its technical aspects, which for me are not important." Henri Carter-Bresson

"There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer." Ansel Adams

"The important thing is not the camera but the eye." Alfred Eisenstaedt

The first volume of the San Francisco Bay Area Photo Blog contains galleries of photographs posted on the Internet between 2002 and 2011. Click Here to view those photos.

Question or comment? I may be reached at neil@mishalov.com.