History & Staff
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Our HistorySan Francisco began to feel crowded as it expanded toward the West at the end of the 19th century. Officials decided that it didn’t want to devote any more of its land to cemeteries. In 1898, burials were prohibited in the City Cemetery. In 1901, the Board of Supervisors prohibited burials anywhere in San Francisco. In 1912 they voted to evict all cemeteries from the City and most graves were relocated to Colma.
On October 1, 1959 local newspapers announced the opening of a new nonsectarian cemetery at the center of the peninsula. It was called Skylawn Memorial Park. The Garden of Inspiration, with pools of water representing everlasting life was to be featured near the entrance. It was designed by French and Jones, noted San Francisco landscape architects. It is located at the intersection of Highway 92 and Skyline Boulevard on the Western slope of Cahill Ridge. Initially encompassing 134 acres, plans were to expand to over 300 acres.
Architect Aaron Green designed the Mausoleum at Skylawn as well as the entry to the Jewish section for Temple Beth-El. Green was the West Coast representative of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
The B.P.O.E., or the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, also known just as the Elks Club has an impressive memorial at Skylawn. It was dedicated in 1966. It is an artistic rendition of the clock shape with crypts on two levels. A star is at the 12 o’clock position, and they have room for over 980 crypts and 2,000 lawn spaces for Elks members and their immediate families. In the memorial interior, a clock shaped fountain is at the center, with hands permanently at the eleven o’clock hour. There are three internment lawn gardens representing Justice, Brother Love and Fidelity surrounding the main monument.
Skylawn also provides an area set aside for burials of members of the Fraternal Order of the Free and Accepted Masons ( F & AM) and is identified by the statue of George Washington.
In 1967 in response to the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno being closed Skylawn made it clear that it would set aside special areas for veterans. The “Winged Victory of Samothrace” is present in this area and overlooks the Pacific Ocean.
Special areas of the cemetery have been set aside for Chinese burials and are filled with symbolism. Each garden is laid out according to careful plans; mountains and water are essential elements in keeping the natural landscape pleasing to the eye. Buildings, in the form of terraces and pavilions, are to unify the scenery and provide focal points from which to enjoy it. The triple gate at the top of Bai Ling Yuan II Plaza offers the perfect orientation to gaze down the canyon to the ocean.