Bay Area Attractions: Honoring the Dead
by Loren Rhoads
San Francisco Columbarium
The Neptune Society’s San Francisco Columbarium is tucked away behind a retirement complex and the Pier One. Most people who see the columbarium’s dome as the 38 bus rolls down Geary Boulevard assume it marks a house of worship. Instead, the dome crowns San Francisco’s last officially open burial place.
Decades ago, more than 100 acres of graves surrounded the Columbarium. Now the neoclassical building, designed by British architect Bernard J. S. Cahill, is the sole remnant of the Odd Fellows Cemetery.
Even before the Columbarium’s niches started to fill, real estate interests in San Francisco coveted the cemetery grounds for housing. The city banned the sale of cemetery lots in 1902. Cremation within the city limits became illegal in 1910. By 1929, the Odd Fellows voluntarily began to exhume graves on their land. They transferred as many as 25,000 bodies to their Greenlawn Cemetery in Colma, south of San Francisco.
Cahill’s beautiful columbarium…read more in the Fall issue of SEARCH Magazine.