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Mountain View Cemetery

It was sunny, clear, and warm this past Wednesday for our Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays special spring tour of the Mountain View Cemetery. There was a strong turnout of 48 walkers and one K-9 best friend at the front of the cemetery’s main mausoleum to enjoy it. We were all there for a tour to be conducted by docent Dennis Evanosky. He is also an author and newspaper man. Dennis has literally written the book, actually two books, on the Mountain View Cemetery; as well as books about Alameda and Oakland’s Laurel District. His knowledge is encyclopedic about all things Mountain View Cemetery and local history. After introductions, Dennis got started telling stories about this Victorian-era jewel cemetery. He pointed out his “three girlfriends” right above us at the main mausoleum. They are statues of three women in its façade, and represent life, and how long it is measured with one girlfriend holding a scissors. Dennis has many areas of extensive historical knowledge, but he has a special interest in the renowned landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmsted, who designed the cemetery in 1863. He also planned New York's Central Park, as well as much of the UC Berkeley and Stanford University campuses. Olmsted was managing gold mines in Bear Valley, California, when he was asked to design the cemetery. He was promised $3,000 for his work, but it seems the cemetery founders only paid him half of it. In rapid fire fashion Dennis continued with many other facts, such as that the cemetery is home to such renowned 19th and 20th century men and women as Charles Crocker, one of the founders of the Central Pacific Railroad, and architect Julia Morgan. After Dennis’ first outpouring of information it was time to start walking and he led us to a fountain up the cemetery’s main road. He pointed out where architect Bernard Maybeck, whose Piedmont homes we have enjoyed on our walks, is buried. Dennis explained that there are different types of cemeteries. Some have large monuments and tombs, others have smaller headstones, and others have flat-to-the-ground burial markers, which make mowing the grass far easier. He also shared that all flowers on graves are removed by the groundskeepers on Wednesdays. As Dennis led us up the road, he pointed out an oak tree that is about 350 years old and a dawn redwood that was brought here from China in the early 1900s. He estimated there are about 170,000 people are buried in the cemetery with room for about 170,000 more. He also noted the many Washington Monument-like obelisks. They mark graves from the late 19th Century when the monument was built in Washington DC. At that time the cemetery was also being created, Egyptian archeological discoveries were first being made by the western world, and everything Egyptian was the rage. Dennis took us to the humble grave of Julia Morgan, the architect for the Hearst Castle and many Piedmont homes we have enjoyed on our walks. Her grave is part of a Morgan family plot and she is just one of many family members identified. Next up, and also actually further up the hill, was one of the cemetery’s main attractions, “Millionaires’ Row.” It is a section where the most grand, elaborate crypts stand, housing some of the cemetery’s most famous and wealthy residents. It is located on a hill with an expansive view of Oakland, the Bay, and San Francisco, which was perfect for the attached group photo. Alicia Rivera, Meghan Bennett, and Vincent Fisher also took photos, one of which is also attached. Dennis guided us down the row, and told us the histories of Charles Crocker, Domingo Ghirardelli, and others. At the end of the row, it was time to go back down the hill. However, one additional stop along the way was the plot for the Grand Army of the Republic soldiers, which Dennis played instrumental role in restoring. They were Civil War Union veterans who died in California, or whose bodies were moved to Mountain View. It was also an appropriate place for us to thank Dennis for a most enjoyable, information-packed tour of a beautiful place on a lovely, warm day.


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