Historical Cemeteries in San Francisco


Before Colma became known as "the City of the Silent" (due to the required relocation of most of San Francisco's cemeteries), people were buried within the city limits. One of the best monuments to those individuals who lived through times like the city's lawless Gold Rush period and the Victorian era are the cemeteries from these bygone days. Here are some final resting places and remnants of these cemeteries around the city that memorialize the first people to call San Francisco home.

Mission Dolores Cemetery

The oldest cemetery in the city is located behind the Mission Dolores and holds the remains of the city's founders, criminals and many Ohlone natives. Officially called the San Francisco de Asis cemetery, it used to expand all the way to what is currently Church and 16th Street, but has since been reduced to a small plot of land behind the Mission. Check here for visitor hours.

San Francisco's Pet Cemetery

This small cemetery has unknown origins, but what is clear is that it dates back to at least the 1950's when military families lived in the Presidio. Tiny gravestones display pet owner's affections for their dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, lizards and goldfish throughout the small enclosed area.

San Francisco Columbarium

Hidden on a cul de sac in an Inner Richmond residential neighborhood, this Victorian-era final resting place is a stunning memorial to those who have been lucky enough to be buried there. It was built in 1897 by Bernard J.S. Cahill, and mimics the Neo-Classical architectural style that was popular during that time period. It was originally built as part of the no longer existing Odd Fellows Cemetery.

Remnants of Old Tombstones Throughout the City

In Buena Vista Park, one of the city's oldest parks, make sure to look down on the foot paths to see pieces of the city's earliest tombstones. Likewise, in Aquatic Park, old tombstones were uses to line paths, and to make the Wave Organ near the St. Francis Yacht Club.

San Francisco National Cemetery

With stunning, sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay, this cemetery was the first national cemetery on the West Coast. Many soldiers who died locally and overseas in China, the Philippines and countries within the Pacific Theater are buried here. It is now closed to new internments, with some exceptions. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Julia is a freelance writer and native San Franciscan, born and raised. She is the founder of Small World This Is, and has written for Matador, Roads and Kingdoms, and USA Today.