The San Francisco Columbarium & Funeral Home is a columbarium (repository for human ashes) owned and operated by Dignity Memorial, at One Loraine Court, near Stanyan and Anza Streets, just north of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California. Built in 1898 by architect Bernard J.S. Cahill, the copper-domed Columbarium is an example of Neo-Classical architecture. It is the only non-denominational burial place within San Francisco's city limits that is open to the public and has space available.
The Columbarium was once part of the Odd Fellows Cemetery, which encompassed approximately 167 acres (68 ha). It was built to complement an existing crematorium designed by Cahill in 1895.
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. Among others, Emmitt Watson was hired by the Neptune Society as a painter but became the primary restorer of the building and functions as de facto tour guide to this day.
In 1996, the building was added to the register of San Francisco Designated Landmarks.
The Columbarium combines baroque and neoclassical features. Cahill was probably inspired by the Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. The diameter, from the entrance to the stained glass window opposite, is 64 feet (20 m). The width of the rotunda within the Inner circle is 29 feet (8.8 m) and the rotunda reaches a height of about 45 feet (14 m).
The eight rooms on the ground floor bear the names of the mythological winds. Six of the ground floor rooms feature beautiful stained glass windows. The window in the Aquilo room depicting three angels in flight, is attributed equally to Louis Comfort Tiffany or John LaFarge. The first floor rooms are named after constellations. The second and third floors are simpler in design.
The first floor contains approximately 2,400 niches, the second floor 2,500, and the third and fourth floors approximately 1,800 each, with an overall total of more than 8,500.
Notable interments & immurements
- George Ainslie (1838–1913) – Congressional delegate from Idaho Territory
- John Backus (1928–2007) – Pioneering computer scientist, creator of Fortran and 1977 Turing Award recipient
- Chet Helms (1942–2005) – Music promoter and father of San Francisco's 1967 "Summer of Love"
- Jerry Juhl (1938–2005) – Muppeteer and writer for the Muppets
- Harvey Milk (1930–1978) – American politician; first openly gay man elected to a public office in California
- Jose Santana (1918–1997) – Mexican born violinist who performed with symphony orchestras and mariachi bands. He was the father of rock guitarist Carlos Santana
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