Opened: June 28, 1854
(As Lone Mountain Cemetery)
Location: Bounded by California Street, Geary Boulevard, Parker and Presidio Avenues.
Renamed: Laurel Hill Cemetery in 1867.
Closed: Bodies moved in 1939-1940 to Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, California.
(The following is excerpted from "Necropolis North of the Panhandle" by Greg Gaar, originally published in the Haight Ashbury Newspaper, 1982.)
In 1853, a group of wealthy entrepreneurs purchased a large tract of sandy but fertile land on the hill where the Fireman's Fund building stands today, west of Presidio and California, and created a 54-acre cemetery.1
Lone Mountain Cemetery was named in honor of the conspicuous 500-foot sand hill which stood a half mile to the south. Miles of carriage roads, with views of the distant city and the ocean, twisted through newly planted tress and "every species of ornamental shrubs and rare plants." 2 The peaceful gardens of the new cemetery offered plots to potential customers and a park-like setting for sightseers. In 1854 the first permanent guest arrived at Lone Mountain Cemetery.
A "who's who" of early San Francisco occupied the guest list of the "silent city" including Andrew Halladie, the inventor of the cable car; David Broderick, the popular United States senator, who was killed in a duel at Lake Merced by the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court; James King of William, whose assassination resurrected the Vigilantes in 1856; Senators Latham, Baker, Sharon, Fair and even Napoleon's son.
Classical marble tombs and elaborate monuments glorified the affluent departed while a more humble section was reserved for the poor. A vault in the cemetery was devoted to the Chinese, but when "the Chinese must go!" movement gathered steam in 1870's, it was "bespattered with mud and filth, battered with stones and sometimes defaced in a most irreverent manner. The animosity that people bear towards the living, seems to extend even beyond the grave." 3
Until Golden Gate Park came of age, Lone Mountain Cemetery served as a park where families would picnic and young couples would promenade among the dead.
Lone Mountain Cemetery was so successful that during the 1860s three other cemeteries were developed to the south, on the slopes adjacent to Lone Mountain. To avoid confusion, it made sense that Lone Mountain Cemetery, which was not located on Lone Mountain, change its name to Laurel Hill, which it did in 1867.
1. The former Fireman's Fund building is now owned and occupied by the University of California - San Francisco.
3. San Francisco City Directory, 1860
3. Benjamin E. Lloyd, "Lights and Shades in San Francisco," 1876
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