Colma, California - City of the Dead
Colma, California - Where the Dead Outnumber the Living
With a population of about 1,500 above ground and over 1.5 million underground, Colma, California, just south of San Francisco, became known as "The City of the Dead" or "City of the Souls." It's where deceased residents of San Francisco were relocated at the turn of the century, and where many of today's San Franciscans plan on retiring permanently.
The Necropolis of Colma, California
San Francisco's Problem - Too Much Dead Space
The dead needed to move to make room for the living. . .and the speculators.
San Francisco politicians at the turn of the century mounted a campaign to move the cemeteries out of the city by promoting information that cemeteries spread disease. The more compelling reason was that they wanted to free up valuable San Francisco real estate. San Francisco was already densely developed. The non-rent-paying dead could rest somewhere else.
In 1900 San Francisco passed an ordinance that no more burials were to be allowed, and in 1914 eviction notices were sent for all cemeteries to remove their dead and their monuments. Many years earlier the Catholic Church established their Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, just south of San Francisco, making Colma the most likely destination for the now homeless dead.
"It's Great to be Alive in Colma!"
Little City of 2.2 Square Miles Home to 17 Cemeteries
Officially established as a necropolis with an area of only 2.2 square miles, Colma holds some kind of record with 17 cemeteries, which include memorial parks specific to: Catholics, Jews, Italians, Greek Orthodox, Serbs, Japanese and even pets.
Some famous names can be found among the sleeping residents of Colma, like: William Randolf Hearst, Joe DiMaggio, Wyatt Earp, Lefty O'Doul, and many other notable industrialists, politicians and business magnates.
In spite of its density of memorial parks, Colma, with its population of about 1,500 living people, also boasts car dealerships, shopping centers and two Home Depots. Residents of Colma are proud of their little city and proclaim their motto: "It's Great to be Alive in Colma!"
My Interest in the Cemeteries of Colma, California
My genealogy research leads me to "The City of the Dead."
My great great grandmother, Agnes Woods Doxey, along with a daughter and son, were buried somewhere in the middle of San Francisco and later relocated to Colma. In the process of relocation, headstones were lost. We were finally able to locate the graves of two of them, close together, with only tiny porcelain number markers to connect them to records in the cemetery office. In addition, several other ancestors were located in the same cemetery far on the other side, with gravestones intact, as they died later and were buried there directly.
Colma is a beautiful place to visit whether you have kindred there or not. Many names are recognizable from early history. The structures are amazing. It's great to be alive in Colma, but the dead have it pretty good, too.
Colma, a Tiny Documentary
This piece from Colma, the Musical, is a great overview of the city.
Colma: The Musical (2006) - Who knew? There's a musical about Colma!?
I had no idea.
Foggy Mausoleum, Colma, California
Rest in Peace: A History of American Cemeteries (People's History) (Library Binding)
Colma, CA (Images of America) (Paperback)
Where is Colma, California?
Colma Books on Amazon
Colma Jobs (Just Kidding)
The American Resting Place: 400 Years of History Through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds (Hardcover)
Stories in Stone (Hardcover)
Your Guide to Cemetery Research (Paperback)
Where the Bodies Are: Final Visits to the Rich, Famous, & Interesting (Paperback)
Cemeteries Gravemarkers (Paperback)
Current Listings on eBay for Colma
Photos used with permission are credited in individual modules. Every other photo on this lens resides in original form in my personal collection.