Why the San Francisco Columbarium is an Ideal Resting Place

f you are in San Francisco and looking for a resting place for a loved one, then look no further than the city’s famous Columbarium. Owned and operated by the Neptune Society, this burial site traces its history all the way back to 1895 and holds the remains of some of San Francisco’s most notable and beloved denizens. Here are just a few of the reasons why you might choose to have yourself or a loved one interred there:

The Columbarium is non-denominational
Religion often provides comfort to people in difficult times. It is no wonder, then, that so many burial ceremonies are steeped in religious tradition. For mixed-faith families, however, this can create a conflict, particularly when each side is anxious to have its beliefs represented. This is also true if the departed wishes to have a non-denominational memorial.

In these situations, the Columbarium can be a place on which mourners of all backgrounds can agree to put their loved ones to rest. As the only non-denominational burial place within San Francisco city limits that both still has space and is open to the public, the Columbarium provides an invaluable service for those making end of life plans.

The Columbarium is beautiful
The Columbarium is a gorgeous building that seamlessly blends Baroque and Neoclassical features. It was first designed in the late 19th century by Bernard Cahill, an architect with a keen interest in spatial design. The Columbarium has a large rotunda, mosaic tile floors, and stained glass windows, and each of the rooms are named after mythological winds or constellations.

There are more than 8,500 niches in total in the building with about 2,400 on the first floor, 2,500 on the second, and 1,800 each on the third and fourth floors. It is this beauty that led to the building being added to the Register of San Francisco Landmarks in 1996.

The Columbarium has a connection to history
Perhaps the most compelling reason to choose the Columbarium is that it represents such an important part of the city’s development and history. When it was first designed, it was a part of the Odd Fellows Cemetery, built to complement an existing crematorium. However, in the early 20th century, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a law forbidding the sale of cemetery lots, halting all burials in the city. Within a decade, cremation was also banned, forcing the Odd Fellows to move outside of the city. With the structure all-but-abandoned, many families moved their loved ones to other locations. The crematorium, and various mausoleums in the area, were destroyed. The Columbarium was the last structure standing, and over the decades it fell into disrepair.

The Neptune Society, however, saw something important in the beautiful structure and in 1980 purchased it and began a full restoration. Over the years, it once again became an important part of the area, and some of the most important people in San Francisco’s history either have remains or memorials within its walls. They include:

  • Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in California
  • Jerry Juhl, long-time writer for the beloved Muppet franchise
  • Edward Robeson Taylor, the city’s 28th mayor
  • Roddy McDowall, actor, film director, photographer, and voice artist

Today, the Columbarium is a beautiful and serene resting place for many people. For more information, or to begin a discussion about funeral planning, please contact us today.


Published | Category: Cremation Society.