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October 13, 2009

San Francisco Columbarium

In San Francisco there are only two places where human remains are legally interred: the National Cemetery in the Presidio (and it's closed to new interments) and the San Francisco Columbarium operated by the Neptune Society. The Columbarium was once part of the Odd Fellows Cemetery, but the cemetery left as part of the great migration of the dead to Colma. From the WikiPedia entry:

In 1902 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance to prohibit the sale of cemetery lots or permit any further burials within the city. By late 1910, cremation was also prohibited. The Odd Fellows, forced to abandon their cemetery, established Green Lawn Cemetery in Colma. Transfer of bodies began in 1929 and many families also chose to remove their urns from the Columbarium. The crematorium and various mausoleums were demolished, and many of the headstones were used to build a seawall at Aquatic Park. Only the Columbarium remained.

After a time, The Columbarium was sold to the Bay Cities Cemetery Association and later to Cypress Abbey. As it passed from one organization to another it fell into disrepair. In 1980, the Neptune Society of Northern California bought it and began restoration.

In 1996, the building was added to the register of San Francisco Landmarks.

San Francisco Columbarium (4469)

San Francisco Columbarium (1)
Street level, as you enter the central space.

San Francisco Columbarium (3)
On the second level.

San Francisco Columbarium (4)
On the third level.

San Francisco Columbarium (2)
Top to bottom view from the second level.

San Francisco Columbarium (4471)

San Francisco Columbarium (4513)

San Francisco Columbarium (4494)

San Francisco Columbarium (4500)
The fourth level, which is in the dome with no view of the central space.

San Francisco Columbarium (4480)
On the second level.

San Francisco Columbarium (4492)
On the third level.

More photos of the Columbarium here. The creativity and diversity of displays at the crypts was similar to what I've seen at the Hollywood Forever cemetery. There are still some empty spots in the Columbarium, and I saw where they were squeezing in a few new ones (without endangering the seismic safety of the building I am sure). There is at least one niche available on the outside of the building. Plus, there is an entirely separate, modern, open-air columbarium just a few steps to the east. And it looks like they are making preparations to build more like that.

Filed under Photography | permalink | October 13, 2009 at 09:46 AM

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