One of the few San Francisco real estate opportunities to accommodate the inevitable: the Columbarium. In a time when most of us are lucky to get ourselves sprinkled off the Golden Gate Bridge, the Columbarium is one of SF's charming anachronisms, a Victorian (1897) structure built to hold the incinerated dead in niches. The surrounding cemetery was removed in the 1930's in a land-use battle; the bodies were removed to graveyards outside the city limits and the monuments went into landfill, but the Columbarium was left standing in a little plot surrounded by stucco houses.
Some of the Columbarium's niches are grand, some are not. Some contain huge bronze urns that look like they might put on a spigot and serve coffee. Or hemlock. Other niches contain personal mementos. Not a few urns are re-purposed cookies jars; whimsy has not been defeated here. It's also surprisingly gay. Lots of male couples, some urns inscribed with two names but one final date, ready and waiting for the surviving partner to be poured in.
The Columbarium was essentially abandoned, left to vandalism and the weather in the '30's. The Neptune Society stepped in in the late '70's to stabilize and restore the building. If it still has the air of a mad aunt, she's been cleaned up, buffed, and totally worth a visit. What do you bring? Starter niches begin around $10K and up, although people tend to not move much. Or move out. Figure you're in for the long haul.
· The Neptune Society [neptune-society.com]
· San Francisco Columbarium [Noehill]