The history of San Francisco's cemeteries is one of relocation. After 1900, the expanding city got rid of most of the cemeteries, citing health issues among its residents. Those remaining in San Francisco are San Francisco National Cemetery (Presidio) and Mission Dolores Cemetery.
Many of San Francisco's graves were re-interred at Colma, south of the city. There are also famous tombs at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. The list below shows cemeteries where visitors can pay respects to some of San Francisco's famous, though several of SF's most legendary personas -- like Robins Williams -- had their ashes scattered, in the late actor's case over San Francisco Bay.
See the Find a Grave Website for detailed descriptions of famous graves throughout the Bay Area and California.
Famous graves at San Francisco National Cemetery in the Presidio include:
San Francisco's own Mission Dolores Cemetery holds the graves of 5,000 Ohlone and Miwok, along with others who built Mission Dolores, in the city's now-named Mission neighborhood. Markers date from 1830 to the late 1800s.
Famous graves at Oakland's Mountain View Cemetery include:
- Charles Crocker: Founder of Southern Pacific Railroad and Crocker Bank
- Julia Morgan: Architect (Berkeley's Greek Theatre, Hearst Castle)
- Bernard Maybeck: Architect (Palace of Fine Arts - San Francisco)
- James Folger: Founder of Folgers Coffee
- Domenico Ghirardelli: Founder of Ghirardelli Chocolate
- Henry Haight: Governor of California
Mountain View Cemetery climbs a steep hill from Piedmont Avenue, opening to panoramic views of San Francisco Bay and Oakland. The Crocker and Ghirardelli mausoleums reside on Millionaires Row -- near the top, with sweeping vistas.
Docent-led tours happen at 10 am on the second Saturday of each month.
Famous graves at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park include:
- Charles de Young: Founder of the San Francisco Chronicle
- Andrew Hallidie: Inventor of San Francisco's cable cars
- William Randolph Hearst: Media magnate, Hearst Castle
- John McLaren: Golden Gate Park landscaper and early San Francisco Parks Superintendent
- Lefty O'Doul: Major League Baseball player
- Claus Spreckels: Founder of Spreckels Sugar Company
Cypress Lawn is huge, spanning multiple sections across El Camino Real. The section on the east side, past the ponds and through the castle-like portal is the most dramatic in terms of monuments and setting.
Famous graves at Holy Cross Catholic Cemeteries in the San Francisco South Bay include:
The reception in the main office at Holy Cross has a walking tour brochure for those interested in paying respects at the individual sites.
The most famous interment at Hills of Eternity Jewish cemetery is Wyatt Earp, known best for his part in the Gunfight at O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.
Hills of Eternity closes a bit earlier than some of the other cemeteries along El Camino Real in Colma which are generally open sun up to sun down. Hills of Eternity found its way into song lyrics on Buckethead's Colma album.
You'll often hear that famous author Henry Miller is buried at Woodlawn. The confusion arises because of the fact that California cattle rancher Henry Miller is, in fact, interred at Woodlawn. The famous author, on the other hand, had his ashes spread at Big Sur -- the coastal retreat that's also home to the Henry Miller Memorial Library.
San Francisco's unique Columbarium (a repository for human ashes) was part of the Odd Fellows cemetery, the graves from which were moved to Colma. The ashes of Harvey Milk, California's first openly gay elected official, and music promoter and "Summer of Love" guru Chet Helms (a Haight-Ashbury local) are interred here, along with SF's iconic "twin" sisters, Marian and Vivian Brown. It's an unusual space that's well-worth a visit.