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Columbarium

Entry Author: Deanna L. Kastler

The Columbarium, at One Loraine Court, set on a 3.5 acre park at the entrance to the Odd Fellows Cemetery, was completed in 1898, as a memorial repository for cremated remains.

Designed by the young British architect, Bernard J. S. Cahill, who specialized in mortuary architecture, the Columbarium is considered one of his finest works. The Odd Fellows regarded death as a dignified and ordinary affair, without fear or morbid feelings. The interior of the Columbarium was furnished like a Victorian parlor with potted palms and oriental rugs. The neo-classical style building blends Roman Baroque, English neoclassicism, and 19th century polychrome.

The exterior has a Roman-inspired dome similar to Michaelangelo's original conception for St. Peters. The dome is copper-clad and ribbed with an inner steel framework. A squat lantern is clad in copper with round openings and decorated with garlands. The walls are stucco and grooved to simulate stone.

The interior has four levels topped by a stained glass ceiling within the lantern. The dome is supported by eight Roman Doric piers. Flower and urn decorations are cast plaster. The central rotunda has four square wings.

The first floor has the Greek names of the winds: Aquilo, Solanus, Eurus, Auster, Notus, Zephyrus, Olympias and Arktas. The second floor has the Greek names of the constellations: Corona, Zubanan, Cheiron, Argo, Sothis, Orion, Perseus and Kepheus.

Large stained glass windows, mostly created by the California Art Glass
Company, with one possibly by Louis Comfort Tiffany or John LaForge include: three angels, "The Holy Spinner," an angel with lily ascending into heaven, Christ with outstretched hands, a design often used on Easter cards, and an angel, in purple, lifting a body upwards.

Following the removal of the Odd Fellows Cemetery in 1930, the Columbarium was sold to Bay Cities Cemetery Association. In 1935, the Columbarium was declared a memorial and the land was homesteaded under the Homestead Act to prevent the state from taking control. In 1980, it was sold to the Neptune Society, which undertook a $300,000 renovation.

In October, 1995, the Columbarium was given landmark status. Starting in 1999, plans for expansion and renovation included tearing down the office building and building a new office building; construction of a wall with 6000 niches around the perimeter of the park, planting trees, creating a new parking lot with a quieter gravel surface; and building a new Victorian-style gate at the entrance.

Niches with copper and glass doors house the ashes of prominent and less prominent residents of San Francisco reflecting the style of the era in which they died. Lined with silk drapery and containing urns of alabaster, silver, copper, and ceramic, many urns reflect the Victorian era and early 1900s. Photographs and treasured mementos reflect the latter part of the 20th century.

QUICK FACTS

The Columbarium was completed in 1898
In 1980, it was sold to the Neptune Society
In October, 1995, the Columbarium was given landmark status

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