May 02, 2010

San Francisco's Columbarium

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

San Francisco has a lot of great things going for it, but not a lot of people would expect that a Repository of Ashes would be the Crown Jewel. Of course that's just MY opinion, but this round four-storied neo-classical structure built in 1898 has approximately 6,700 niches on four levels.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Seems like this is one of San Francisco's best kept secrets, and you're probably going to need a map to find the place. But I found out about the Columbarium several weeks ago from my friend Julie Michelle, who in my opinion is currently the brightest star in a galaxy of talented San Francisco photographers. Julie did a photo-shoot here (((click on the slideshow))) at the Columbarium as part of her "I Live Here, S.F." project.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

The thing about the Columbarium, besides the architecture and fabulous stained glass windows, is that many of the niches contain objects that reflect the person's interests and personality. Some of the crypts are filled with the most wonderful objects. This poor departed soul (o.k., maybe not so poor) was obviously a dentist and had a passion for photography and his boat.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Prior to 1980 when the Neptune Society took over the operation of the Columbarium, the place was closed and had fallen into disrepair -- I am told that the ground floor was a swampy mess and that Raccoons and other critters had made the place their own. Since then the place has been beautifully and painstakingly restored to it's former glory. You can notice some on-going maintenance here -- the baseboard is waiting for paint.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Some of the most beautiful stained glass I've ever seen is at the Columbarium. Come back tomorrow and I'll show you some more, but CLICK for Wikipedia's information about the Columbarium.

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Your comments are invited and welcome.


Marcie said...

Thank you for this tour of the Columbarian. I doubt I'd ever know it existed..without your invaluable advice!!!

Lew said...

Fascinating place! And shows you can take a few things with you!

MELI. said...

great post. when i saw this pop up in the reader, i couldnt wait to see the whole set :D
wanderlusting in your own city - gotta luv it

Brad said...

Very cool. Was never aware of the place. Have to check it out now...

Tomate Farcie said...

That is a great series!! I was there somewhat recently and did not manage to take very good photos. The space is not easy to photograph, and you're quite right about the stained glass although if you ever go to Paris you will see some amazing stained glass on the walls of Notre Dame ;)

What I liked about the Columbarium is how people have deposited some little objects next to their loved ones, so you can walk around and identify "a golfer, a music lover " and personalities like Harvey Milk (I spotted him right away).


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