OLIVET MEMORIAL PARK (MOUNT OLIVET)
1601 Hillside Boulevard
Colma, California 94014
Bella Morte Rating: 5 Tombstones
With its wall of stone arches inset with ornate, Romanesque letters, the entrance to this Colma cemetery made us feel as if we'd arrived at a villa-style Italian restaurant. A peek inside the gates, however, revealed a large, flat expanse of land punctuated with trees and greenery in alarmingly small numbers. Beyond, the slope of San Bruno Mountain lay partially shrouded by a dense, early morning fog.
Though strongly tempted to skip touring the grounds altogether in favour of checking out the mausoleum, we resigned ourselves to having a look around. It would be a shame to miss any hidden treasures, particularly as it's not every day we are in Colma!
Our determination paid off in the discovery of three beautiful figures, their graceful forms dusted with tender green moss. Insofar as the grounds were concerned, however, those three monuments were the best that Olivet had to offer.
Having had such paltry luck with the cemetery grounds, it was with little hope of faring better in the mausoleum that we approached the building's frosted glass door, propped open to admit the morning breeze. We'd barely taken a step inside, however, when we knew we were in a very special place.
Gleaming marble floors with ornate carpets give Olivet's community mausoleum the feel of having just entered the foyer of some grand estate. And indeed, this is an estate of sorts...the eternal dwelling place of the mortal remains of thousands of souls.
The building is partitioned into small, parlour-like rooms, each lined with cremation niches, some fronted with bronze, others with glass. Most of the glass-front niches are lined with copper which seems to both gather and reflect light in such a way that each cubicle it graces radiates a gentle glow. In addition to wall niches, some rooms also contain free-standing columbaria in the centre and a few very fortunate souls have been blessed to obtain niches fronted with glass facing both inside and outside the building! These outstanding locations feature colourful stained glass through which their eternal occupants can gaze serenely at the world just beyond their resting places.
Although it seems the cemetery has only recently begun to accept cremation urns fashioned from any material other than bronze, the building does not suffer from the lack of diversity in memorial design so prevalent in many mausoleums today. While there are a number of book-style urns, they are interspersed among other, more creative and engaging, designs. The Parthenon-like columns of the Clara B. Wales memorial; the elegant floral garland of the Brown ~ Wagner monument; the astonishing Regula W. Albertus Gothic cathedral tower; the hauntingly beautiful face of Bessie Fuller Turner, captured forever in her porcelain portrait.
Peaceful. Elegant. Serene. Inviting. All are words which come to mind immediately in reflecting upon Olivet's community mausoleum. So strongly attracted to the building were we that, virtually on its strength alone, we have granted Olivet a five tombstone rating.
And now, an interesting little tidbit with information regarding the cemetery gleaned from a historical plaque:
Mount Olivet Cemetery Office and Streetcar Line
In 1896, the Abbey Land and Improvement Company
established Mount Olivet Cemetery. During that year,
the Company also obtained a franchise from the County
of San Mateo to run a streetcar line from the tracks of the
"40 Line" to the office building at the entrance to the cemetery.
The Mount Olivet Local Line, as it was called, serviced visitors
to the cemetery until 1926 when the "40 Line" was relocated.
Dedicated January 11, 1986 - Town of Colma
Ancient and Honorable Order E Clampus Vitus
In case you are as curious as we were in regard to that "Ancient and Honorable Order E Clampus Vitus" bit at the end of the plaque inscription, allow us to share what we have learned: The Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus is an all-male organization dedicated to researching and preserving California's history. The name of the organization is meaningless, which, considering their motto, "Credo Quia Absurdum," ("I believe it because it is absurd") makes a certain amount of sense...in a twisted kind of way. At any rate, we can thank the "Mountain Charlie 1850 Chapter" for erecting the plaque from which we were able to gain the bit of fascinating information from Olivet's history cited above.