A walk through cemetery history
As the day of the dead slowly approaches on Nov. 2, cemeteries become livelier with flowers and visitors who remember those who are gone, but never forgotten.
Mission Dolores, formerly known as Mision San Francisco de Asis, is home to San Francisco’s oldest Cemetery—founded in 1776. Here rest some of the city’s most historically notable figures such as: Don Francisco de Haro, the first Alcalde or mayor of San Francisco; and Don Luis Antonio Arguello, first governor of Alta California; as well as numerous Ohlone and Mowok Indian pioneers. The cemetery is fairly small, and it’s easy to spot the tombstones that have been damaged by unpredictable weather, which has made their lettering hard to see. However, the simplicity and architecture of the place remains throughout, as elegant angels embellish solid tombstones, and engraved ivy adorn solid crosses—all amid a beautiful rose garden that catches the eye.
Oakland 87 years later
Head east out of San Francisco and you’ll find Mountain View Cemetery. Founded in 1863, it was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the architect of New York City’s Central Park. The cemetery stretches over 200 acres of hills and has spectacular views that house some of the wealthiest people to ever inhabit the Bay Area.
Simple ground stones haven’t always been the only kind of tombstones that most prefer. With the endless amounts of accessible acres, Mountain View holds a columbarium, four mausoleums, vast acres of cemeteries and a crematorium.
Over 47 notable graves of historical pioneers such as: California’s first licensed female architect, Julia Morgan, who designed Hearst Castle; Ina Coolbrith, California’s first poet Laureate; and the “King of Chocolate,” Domingo Ghirardelli; as well as Anthony Chabot, Samuel Merritt and many others.
The space and energy felt at both cemeteries resonates a sense of convergence between those living, those remembered and nature.