Headstone Remnants In Buena Vista Park




Here are four photographs showing gravestone remnants found in the drain gutters of Buena Vista Park today.
Click on one for a closer look.

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... Here lie the remains of Pioneer tombstones and grave monuments. History recycled, by city demands, into pretty facing for the drain gutters in the lovely Buena Vista Park.

There was a big Gala and Grand Opening for the new Buena Vista Park around 1900, which officially unveiled this civic nicety after John McLaren's forestation* of its hills. What was once a big volcanic hill of sand, shrubs and live oaks - aptly named "Wildwoods" - now became a pedestrian friendly vista point and park. Installation of walkways in the 1890's and then retaining walls and drain gutters by the WPA in the 1930's** further transformed this un-welcoming real estate into the public amenity we see today.

The drains where lined with uneven elements of polished marble and granite. I use to think these headstone fragments probably came from the recently 86'd Lone Mountain Cemeteries, which were being removed at about the same time. Other local Historians have shown otherwise, and I send my regards. The Golden Gate City Cemetery was these headstone fragments old home. Sometimes the expelled sites, at both locations, were claimed and relocated by family members lucky enough to be able to oversee their dearly departed relatives' unexpected mandated move.

The other noble Pioneers evidently were here all alone. They had no one to protest or protect their humble graves and prevent their eternal markers forced removal. Unclaimed headstones and monuments were broken-up and ground down into rubble.

Unlike the Golden Gate City Cemeteries, the Lone Mountain Cemeteries were properly and completely removed (wink wink). All the graves were supposedly removed from the Golden Gate City Cemetery, but, recent evidence has shown otherwise. Many were just left behind and their markers removed and recycled. No telling what went where, but, there is documentation pointing to seawalls or break-waters being constructed at the Aquatic Park and Marina Green (Notice the Wave Organ). Some recycled monuments and headstones were used as bedding for the Great Highway at Ocean Beach. Some portions also went into a landfill on the northern slopes of Lands End, just over the side of the old Golden Gate City Cemetery.

Recycled chunks from the Golden Gate City Cemetery tombstones were used as paving in the storm drains of Buena Vista Park. I believe the initial intent was to hide the original source of these wonderful marble building fragments. Like some public workers or contractors today, though, their souls didn't seem to be into the work at hand and mistakes were made. Either that or the workers were more sarcastic than imaginable.

This is visibly seen when viewing the random examples of jagged tiles with crisp lettering and numbers left exposed to the sky as one walks along the shady paths of Buena Vista Park today.


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* "Buena Vista Park" by Jeanne Alexandar, SFHR, San Francisco Neighborhood Parks Report.

** "Buena Vista Park" by Timothy Keegan, Panorama, July - September 2002; Newsletter of San Francisco Museum of Historical Society.