San Francisco Columbarium & Funeral Home

Coordinates: 37°46′50″N 122°27′25″W / 37.78056°N 122.45694°W / 37.78056; -122.45694
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San Francisco Columbarium
One Loraine Court
San Francisco, California
CountryUnited States
Coordinates37°46′50″N 122°27′25″W / 37.78056°N 122.45694°W / 37.78056; -122.45694
Owned byDignity Memorial
No. of graves~8,500 niches
Find a GraveSan Francisco Columbarium
Reference no.209

The San Francisco Columbarium & Funeral Home is a columbarium (repository for human ashes) owned and operated by Dignity Memorial, located at One Loraine Court, near Stanyan and Anza Streets, just north of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California.[2] Built in 1898 by architect Bernard J.S. Cahill,[2] the copper-domed Columbarium is an example of neoclassical 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 30 acres (12 ha).[3] It was built to complement an existing crematorium designed by Cahill in 1895.

In 1902 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors prohibited further burials within the city. By late 1910, cremation was also prohibited.[3] 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. Many of the headstones were re-used to build a seawall at Aquatic Park. The Columbarium remained,[3] as well as interments below ground that were missed during exhumation, such as the mummified body of two-year-old Edith Howard Cook found in 2016.[4]

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.[2] 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.[5][6]

On March 3, 1996, the building was added to the register of San Francisco Designated Landmarks.[1][7]


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. On the grounds there is a fountain sculpture of Coit Tower.[8] Many of the interments have creative dedications and feature personal items.[8]

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[edit]

The Columbarium holds the remains, memorials, and cenotaphs of some of San Francisco's most prominent founding families, and celebrities:


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "City of San Francisco Designated Landmarks". City of San Francisco. Retrieved 2012-10-21.
  2. ^ a b c Craig, Christopher J. (2006). San Francisco: A Pictorial Celebration. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 83. ISBN 978-1-4027-2388-9.
  3. ^ a b c Proctor, William A. (1950). "Location, regulation, and removal of cemeteries in the City and County of San Francisco". Department of City Planning, City and County of San Francisco. Retrieved 2022-10-18.
  4. ^ Dowd, Katie (2017-05-10). "Mystery girl found in coffin came from a fascinating and influential San Francisco family". SFGATE. Retrieved 2022-10-19.
  5. ^ "S.F. Columbarium in good hands with Emmitt Watson". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2019-09-19.
  6. ^ "What is a columbarium? An Interview with Emmitt Watson". Seven Ponds. Retrieved 2019-09-19.
  7. ^ Ungaretti, Lorri (2005). San Francisco's Richmond District. Arcadia Publishing. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-7385-3053-6.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Zigoris, Julie (May 14, 2022). "The Only Place You Can Leave Your Heart Forever in San Francisco: The Inner Richmond's Palace of Ashes". KQED. Retrieved 2022-10-19.
  9. ^ "Politicians in Newspapers and Print Journalism in Missouri". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved 2022-10-18.
  10. ^ a b "Guide to the Hidden Gems in San Francisco". SFGate. Retrieved 2022-10-19.
  11. ^ Wells, Charlie (July 25, 2010). "Bay Area famous graves". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 18, 2022.
  12. ^ a b Chamings, Andrew (2021-04-18). "The secrets of the San Francisco Columbarium". SFGATE. Retrieved 2022-10-19.
  13. ^ Richards, Rand (1994). The Complete San Francisco Bay Area Sightseeing Guide. Heritage House Publishers. p. 49. ISBN 978-1-879367-02-9.

External links[edit]