Not just a cemetery – a Noble cause.


The Birth of Cypress Lawn

history-4The inspiration for Cypress Lawn came during a carriage ride past San Francisco’s Laurel Hill Cemetery, which in just a few years had gone from civic pride to civic eyesore. San Francisco’s land-hungry residents—confined to a cramped 49 square mile limit—quickly turned inhospitable to cemeteries. A friend of Hamden Noble riding in that carriage urged him to go into the funeral business and find a solution to the problem.

In 1892, a group of civic-minded men led by Noble established Cypress Lawn Memorial Park a dozen miles south of San Francisco, a safe distance from the political reach of The City that would nine years later ban all burials, and then, in what was almost unthinkable, passed a law “evicting” the dead from San Francisco, most of whom were reinterred at Cypress Lawn years later.

Hamden Noble traveled East to research cemetery styles and discovered the “rural” and “lawn park” examples that had begun to grace the Eastern United States over the last half century.

history-7What emerged at Cypress Lawn was a hundred and fifty acres adorned by carefully selected horticulture to create a beautiful and serene garden. Quickly, Cypress Lawn became, and still is, the cemetery for the most prominent and powerful families in San Francisco and California. Magnificent monuments and edifices to memorialize the achievement of the men and women who helped shape the Golden State were built by the leading architects, sculptors, and stained glass artists of the early 20th century. In fact, it been commented that Cypress Lawn’s outdoor and indoor collection has more elegant works of art than many museums.

history-6Cypress Lawn, perhaps as no other single place, represents the political, economic, and cultural history of the American West.