I have loved visiting cemeteries since I was a child. It used to freak out my mom because she thought I was thinking about death too much but I was more curious about the lives of the people buried there. Through the years I have also been fascinated by the numerous head stones and grave markers. Please enjoy my fascination!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

City of the Silent

Colma, California is not know for their live residents but more for who is laid to rest there. In 1900, San Francisco passed an ordinance which outlawed the construction of any more cemeteries in the city (because of increased property value). San Francisco then passed another ordinance in 1912 evicting all existing cemeteries from city limits. Basically anyone who passed away in San Francisco is buried in one of the cemeteries in Colma.
Robyn and I visited Cypress Lawn Memorial Park yesterday for a scheduled walking tour. It is about an hour drive for us but neither of us has been there before. About once a month, the Cypress Lawn Heritage Foundation puts together walking tours and lectures, which are free to the public. They refer to Cypress Lawn as a 200 acre museum of art and history and after walking the tour yesterday, I agree!
Yesterday's topic was 'Gargoyles, Foo Dogs, and More: Interesting and Unusual Memorials'. Our docent was Terry Hamburg, who is the author of "Grand Entrances", a book on unique storefronts in San Francisco. Also helping with the tour was Martin S. Jacobs, Executive VP of Development of the Cypress Lawn Heritage Foundation. http://www.cypresslawnheritagefoundation.com/

The tour started at the Noble Chapel, located on the east side of the main road thru Colma. The Noble Chapel was modeled after the St. Giles Church in Stokes Poges, England. There were about 12 of us ready to walk. They provided us with complimentary bottles of water for our trek.

Noble Chapel

One of the first sites we came to was for the Graves family. The unique part of this one is that they had a bench that had the image of the devil on the sides. This also had an eleborate marker.

We saw a lot of great craftsmanship in the various doors and stained glass windows.

Here are some of my favorites:

More of my photos can be found at: http://picasaweb.google.com/Liner89/CypressLawnMemorialParkColma#

The entire tour was about 2 hours and ended back at Noble Chapel. They had set out coffee, cookies, strawberries and grapes for us to munch on. (and yes.....I had 2 cookies....choco chip and oatmeal....so much for my Cleanse yesterday...lol).
After the tour, Robyn and I drove across the road to the west side to see the graves there. There were not as many ornate and large site as on the east side. We got back on the main road and decided to find the Catholic cemetery.
Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery is designed differently than Cypress Lawn - the word that came to mind was 'busy'. It was a lot of head stones really close together. As we were driving out I happened to see the name of DiMaggio. We stopped and got out and looked closer. It was the grave of Joe DiMaggio!
Robyn and I decided that we definitely need to see about doing a walking tour at Holy Cross and going back to Cypress Lawn for more exploring.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Walk in the Moonlight

Last night, Robyn and I went on a flashlight cemetery tour at the Alhambra Cemetery in Martinez. A couple of times a year the Historical Society conducts walking tours of this historical cemetery. There were two scheduled - 6:30 pm and then 8:00pm. We chose the early one. I am not sure what time in the tour I took the the above photo. Here is a link to their site: http://www.martinezhistory.org/html/cemetery_tour.html

Many of the early residents of our county and the city of Martinez are buried there. The estimate is that there is about 3,300 graves there but not all are accounted for. The original caretaker of the cemetery double and triple-booked plots without anyone knowing. He eventually ended up at San Quentin Prison and buried at the Catholic cemetery across the street.

We saw the grave of Mr. Nakatani - a Japanese immigrant who helped developed the first beefsteak tomato. He is know as The Tomato King. I tried to take a photo but I forgot to use my flash....lol.

Here are some images I took of some of the grave markers:
One of the original wood grave markers - others were destroyed in a fire.

A unique marker made from pipe and sheet metal

Not sure of the story of those buried here - just thought the marker was unique!

This Saturday we will be going to Colma for a walking cemetery tour there. The theme is 'Gargoyles, Foo Dogs, and More: Interesting and Unusual Memorials'. I will have my camera ready!