Tucked away in the sprawling Cypress Lawn Mausoleum located behind the administration building is some of the most magnificent stained glass in America, including 36,000 square feet of glass ceilings.
When the original Cypress Lawn Cemetery offices in San Francisco were destroyed in the earthquake of 1906, founder Hamden Holmes Noble hired eminent architect Bernard Cahill, a specialist in mausoleum design and mortuary architecture, whose body of work includes the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (San Francisco), Evergreen Memorial Cemetery Memorial Building (Oakland), the St. Mary’s Cemetery mausoleum (Sacramento), and the Diamond Head Memorial Park in Honolulu.
Cahill designed a Mediterranean style office and began work on a large mausoleum whose ceilings would allow natural light to penetrate and filter through. He believed that the antidote to the darkness of death should be an abundance of light and color. Notably, none of the four acres glass in the entire mausoleum is ecclesiastical in nature.
The most dramatic of these works are in earliest catacombs, completed prior to World War I when further export of the valuable stained glass from England and Germany was forbidden. These opalescent ceilings were constructed by West Coast artists, most prominently brothers Harry and Bert Hopps of San Francisco’s United Glass Company. Other stained glass masterpieces for which the company was responsible included the dome at the City of Paris Department Store (preserved by Nieman-Marcus) and domes at the Hibernia Bank, the Palace Hotel, and San Francisco City Hall.
Join us for the “Splendor in the Glass” walking tour on October 22nd.
Terry Hamburg, Cypress Lawn Heritage Foundation