Tomb With A View

April 2, 2010

Olmsted designed only two cemeteries during his long and varied career. One is Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery. And boy, does it live up to its name.

Legend has it that Olmsted walked to the top of a steep hill, lifted his finger and pointed down toward the bay, declaring, “This is the spot.” Is it ever. In his day, one would have had an incredible view of two bustling boom towns, Oakland and San Francisco. I had an amazing view of the same two cities — now all grown up — on my visit today.

Thanks to Barbara Smith and Dennis Evanosky, Mountain View docents, for showing me around and filling me in on this place’s rich history. There are 174,000 people buried here, including chocolate baron Domingo Ghirardelli and C.O.G. Miller, founder of Pacific Gas & Electric. Julia Morgan, the prolific architect, managed to stake out one the best spots… or rather plots. The Hearst Castle at San Simeon is her best known work so clearly she had a feel for dramatic settings. Visitors to the Mountain View often sit on the benches that surround her tomb, soaking up the view. (Photo below is from that vantage.)