Established in 1898, the San Francisco Columbarium stands as one of California’s most prized architectural treasures. For more than a century, the San Francisco Columbarium has been the last remaining nondenominational place within San Francisco to memorialize loved ones.
The San Francisco Columbarium & Funeral Home provides personalized tributes that uniquely celebrate a loved one’s life and offers compassionate and professional guidance through your funeral planning process.
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Funeral planning can seem overwhelming. These guides can help you every step of the way—from choosing between traditional burial planning and cremation, designing a religious ceremony or a celebration of life, and deciding on cemetery property or filing for veteran's benefits.
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An architectural gem
Located off the beaten path, at the end of a residential cul-de-sac in the Richmond District, the copper-domed, Neo-Classical columbarium is a hidden gem and an architectural wonder. The must-see structure was originally part of the Odd Fellows Cemetery and features a large rotunda, mosaic tile floors, ornate stained-glass windows and a domed skylight. A colossal 45-foot atrium is surrounded by intricate balconies, with each of the 4 floors providing a glimpse into San Francisco’s history.
The interior decoration and design of the columbarium follow the belief of the Odd Fellows, one of the world’s oldest fraternal societies, who saw death as something to approach without fear and funerals as events that should be ordinary yet dignified.
Three main halls—Hall of Olympians, Hall of Titans and Hall of Heroes—house around 8,500 niches containing cremated remains and memorabilia special to those buried here. Six of the ground-floor rooms have stained-glass windows, one of which has been attributed to both Louis Comfort Tiffany and John La Farge.
San Francisco Funeral Home
Built in 2016, San Francisco Funeral Home provides funeral and cremation services for Bay Area families. The funeral home has a chapel that seats about 70. Stained-glass windows and marble flooring reflect the ornate and stately feel of the columbarium itself. Though the space is primarily used for funeral services, the funeral home chapel also hosts community events and even weddings.
Personalized funeral services
The funeral home team specializes in creating one-of-a-kind tributes that celebrate a person’s passions and personality. Whether you want a simple service with treasured photographs and beloved music or an elaborately themed celebration of life ceremony with a batting cage, ballpark food and takeaway baseballs, there’s practically no limit to what we can do.
We honor veterans
San Francisco Columbarium & Funeral Home understands the unique needs of America’s veterans and their families. As a Level One Founding Community Partner with We Honor Veterans, our staff is knowledgeable in the benefits available to veterans and their families. With respect, integrity and dignity, we will walk you through the steps of creating a veteran's memorial service that truly honors the life and sacrifice of your loved one.
A place to tell your story
San Francisco Columbarium has thousands of niches and vaults for cremated remains—and each one tells a story. Many of the glass-front niches are personalized with photographs, mementos and customized urns. You’ll find urns shaped like cookie jars, elaborate homages to the San Francisco Giants, miniature golf bags, dancing Hawaiian figurines and locks of hair (especially in niches dating back to the 1800s).
How will you memorialize your life story? The columbarium staff is happy to work with you to customize your cremation niche or vault.
Our promise to you
Our experienced funeral home associates are dedicated to honoring your funeral and cremation needs and wishes. As a member of the Dignity Memorial® network of funeral, cremation and cemetery service providers, San Francisco Funeral Home offers compassionate care and personalized service you can trust.
Give us a call for any reason at all. We are here for you day and night.
What is a columbarium?
The term “columbarium” has its origins in the Latin word "columba" (dove) and refers to compartmentalized housing, or niches, for doves and pigeons. Today’s columbaria (the plural of columbarium) are buildings for housing cremated remains in memorial niches. Unlike traditional in-ground burials, where a granite headstone may include only a name and birth/death dates, cremation niches put personalities, hobbies and passions on display.
Columbaria also present an economical and earth-friendly alternative to traditional in-ground burial, as cremations can be performed without embalming chemicals. There are also no cemetery lawns that require landscaping maintenance.
Customizable Cremation Niches
Unlike in-ground burial, cremation niches are highly customizable. Along with urns, families can personalize glass-front niches with photographs, mementos and keepsakes indicative of their loved ones’ personalities, hobbies and passions. Among our niches, you’ll find elaborate homages to the Giants, miniature golf bags, signature glasses, favorite pieces of jewelry, religious figures and more.
The Neptune Society of Northern California
If you made your final plans with the Columbarium via The Neptune Society of Northern California, please know that your prearrangements are safe and valid and will be honored at the San Francisco Columbarium & Funeral Home.
Built by British architect Bernard Cahill in 1898 to complement the crematory he designed in 1895, the San Francisco Columbarium is not only a beautiful final resting place but also an off-the-beaten-path spot to reflect on the city’s history.
The columbarium was originally part of the Odd Fellows Cemetery (open 1854-1923) that stretched over 167 acres of land. The Odd Fellows—one of the world’s oldest fraternal societies—opened the cemetery on land that was deemed valueless due to its sandy soil. But it was the perfect location for a crematorium and columbarium.
As the city grew, land became scarce and prices rose. In 1902, the property where the crematorium, columbarium and cemetery stood became annexed into the City of San Francisco.
San Francisco outlaws cremation, evicts the dead
In 1910, cremations were outlawed in San Francisco and the crematorium was destroyed. Two years later, the city went a step further and evicted the dead from the cemetery, moving many of them to the city of Colma, which to this day has more dead residents than living ones. Today, the property's Rossi Pool marks the spot where the crematorium once stood.
With no way to generate income from new burials and cremations, the columbarium fell into disrepair and changed ownership many times.
In 1934, San Francisco Columbarium was set to be demolished but received protection from the Homestead Act. However, the building remained neglected for nearly 50 more years. Mushrooms, pigeons and raccoons took refuge under the rotunda’s dome.
Lovingly restored landmark
Then, in 1980, the Neptune Society of Northern California bought the columbarium. With help from master craftsmen, the arduous task of restoring the building to its original splendor began. Sixteen years later, the San Francisco Columbarium was added to the register of San Francisco Designated Landmarks.
Today, the columbarium stands fully and artfully restored. It is now a member of the Dignity Memorial® network of funeral, cremation and cemetery service providers, and those who have chosen this location over the last 120+ years as a final resting place have the beautiful home they deserve.
Order of the Odd Fellows Cemetery
From 1914 to 1941, San Francisco’s cemeteries relocated around 150,000 graves. If that doesn’t seem like many, consider that in 1920 the Bay Area’s population was roughly 500,000. Graves and headstones were moved to Colma, but only if families had the money to move them (around $140 in 2017).
For many, this cost—which came during the Great Depression—was too much to bear. Many of the city’s dead were removed and reburied in mass graves; however, their grave markers remained. Unclaimed stone from mausoleums and headstones were crushed and used to build seawalls in the Marina District, walking paths in Buena Vista and Aquatic Parks (where visitors can see epitaphs at low tide), and the Wave Organ near St. Francis Yacht Club.
The hastiness of the move to Colma meant that some Odd Fellows Cemetery burials were left behind. Several news articles, some as recent as 2016, report that homeowners and children have found remains of the former cemetery, which was moved a century ago.
Notable people and moments in time
San Francisco Columbarium is home to many of San Francisco's most well-known and influential citizens. Visitors will recognize names like Eddy, Steiner, Haight, Page and Shattuck, who were famous residents and have been memorialized throughout the city with streets bearing their names. Also buried here are the Folger family, creators of Folgers Coffee; Chet Helms, music promoter and father of the city’s 1967 “Summer of Love”; John Backus, computer scientist and creator of Fortran; Jerry Juel, writer and puppeteer for The Muppets; and Jose Santana, renowned musician and father of Carlos Santana.
Many who died during the 1980s AIDS epidemic are interred at the columbarium. Stuffed teddy bears with rainbow scarfs—a memorial to Harvey Milk—and other touching tributes can be seen in the cremation niches in the Hall of Olympians.
Visitors to San Francisco Columbarium can also spot evidence of the 1906 earthquake and fire, which killed 3,000 San Franciscans and leveled 80% of the city. The columbarium was one of the few structures to survive.
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