Monday, January 30, 2012

Profound Ground With Views of The Golden Gate

Oakland's Mountain View Cemetery and Chapel of the Chimes

A Statue at Mountain View
Ever Pointing To Heaven
Vigilant of Mariners on the Bay

Growing up in the East Bay there were certain rituals we observed every year. Watching fireworks over Lake Merritt on the fourth. Annual treks to the County and State fairs. A bag filled with chili burgers from a Foster's Freeze. Or, my favorite, an exquisitely rich jersey sundae from Fenton's Creamery.

On New Year's it might be Boz Scagg's annual black tie concert at the Paramount. At Christmas there was the yearly visit to San Francisco to see "The Tree" in the City of Paris department store. In Oakland there were the Christmas lights strung from house to house on Piccardy Lane. Downtown there was the elaborate holiday window at Capwell's.

And we always returned to hear the carols and see the amazing snow filled Christmas tableau presented on the grounds of the Mountain View Cemetery.

Mountain View When it Used to be Decorated at Christmas 
(From the Official Postcard)

Sadly, many of these traditions now just exist as memories.

This weekend I made a day trip back to Oakland to visit a favored aunt and friends. While there Miss M and I went to have a sandwich and some ice cream at Fenton's Creamery. Well, as usual, there was no parking anywhere nearby, so we drove up Piedmont Ave, and found ourselves parking in front of the Chapel of the Chimes. We figured the walk back to Fenton's would be nice. 

We never made it. The amazing smell from the Local Cafe intercepted us instead. We were rewarded with a warm spinach salad filled with black trumpet mushrooms, and topped with crunchy baked proscuito. I may cry.

Since we were already parked, and I have many relatives resting permanently in both the Chapel of the Chimes and the Mountain View Cemetery, I asked Miss M if it would creep her out too much to visit each. She was OK with it, so visit we did.

What a nice day it turned out to be. First off, you have to understand that the original Chapel of the Chimes Columbarium was designed in 1926 by Julia Morgan. 

Ms. Morgan was the first woman to obtain a degree in civil engineering from Cal Berkeley. She was the first woman to graduate from the Ecole des Beaux-Artes in Paris. And, ultimately, she was the first woman to be licensed as an architect in California. Her most famous commission undoubtedly is William Randolph Hearst's Castle.

While, certainly not among her most famous commissions, the Chapel of the Chimes is certainly one of the loveliest and best preserved. She planned the Columbarium as a series of small, perfectly illuminated, little spaces.

Intimate Moorish Style Spaces 
Filled With Natural Light 

Many of the Urns Look Like Books

Just next door and climbing the hills behind the Chapel of the Chimes is the stately Mountain View Cemetery.

This is a cemetery planned in 1863 by Frederick Law Olmsted (the father of American Landscape Architecture.) Olmsted's credits include: New York's Central Park, Golden Gate Park, Stanford University, and Chicago's 1893 Columbian Exposition.

According to the Cemetery website: 
"Olmsted took a unique approach to Mountain View Cemetery. His park cemetery integrated the Parisian grand monuments and broad avenues. Olmsted also drew on a popular philosophy of the times, American Transcendentalism, to help shape his vision of the cemetery. American Transcendentalism embodied Asian philosophy, which believed that all of nature flows from the same wellspring, that is, trees and flowers, water and air — and man — are part of nature."

At the base of the hill he placed straight "boulevards". He laced the hills with curved lanes and paths.

Mountain View has arguably some of the best views of the Golden Gate in the entire Bay Area. It is also the final resting place for many of the most famous families in the Bay Area. In fact one entire section of the cemetery is referred to as Millionaire's Row.

Opened just 14 years after California's Gold Rush, this cemetery is old enough to house marvelous statuary.

An Angel Contemplating Heaven 
Midway up the Hill

Offerings Left With The Angel
to Assure Good Luck

Another Angel 
Guarding the Bradbury Crypt 
Also on Millionaire's Row

Domingo Ghirardelli 
San Francisco's Chocolate King

Warren Bechtel
Founder of the Bechtel Corporation

This cemetery is final resting place for Charles Crocker (railroad and banking), James Folger (coffee), Henry J. Kaiser (steel and aluminum), Frances Marion "20 Mule Team Borax" Smith, numerous artists, writers, engineer's, physicians, educators, governor's and civil war generals, and finally Bernard Maybeck and Julia Morgan.

Whether it is the Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah (former home to The Bird Girl statue from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and where John Muir camped for six nights while passing through Savannah), LA's Hollywood Forever Cemetery, or the Pere-Lachaise in Paris, a visit to a great city sometime's justifiably includes a slow stroll in a great cemetery.

We eventually got scoops of Fenton's Ice Cream (minus any parking issues) at their stand in the Oakland Airport!

Roadboy's Travels © 2012

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