Twelves #11 – The Necropolis of Colma

The Town of Colma, featured briefly in this weekly post, is known as the only necropolis in the United States, a City of the Dead. The population of Colma is 1,600 living residents, and over 1.5 million deceased residents across the 17 full-size cemeteries.

It’s great to be alive in Colma

Town Motto
Woodlawn Memorial Park
Cypress Lawn

The town is just 10 miles south of San Francisco which saw a population boon due to the gold rush in 1849. The big city’s cemeteries started to fill up and by 1887 organizations started to purchase land and plots outside of the city for burials.

By 1901, the city of San Francisco declared that no new burials were allowed within the city limits; and in 1914 due to concerns of disease, ordered existing bodies in the city to be disinterred and moved.

In 1924, the cemeteries and organizations incorporated the town under the name Lawndale. However, in 1941 when opening the Post Office they were required to change the name since a Lawndale, CA already existed in southern California, so the name was changed to Colma.

Italian Cemetery
Serbian Cemetery

The town fully embraces it’s role as a necropolis and most of the local businesses cater to serving those needs, from making gravestones to providing flowers.

A few of the famous residents in Colma include Joe DiMaggio, Wyatt Earp, William Randolph Hearst, Levi Strauss, and even Tina Turner’s dog in the Pet Cemetery.

You can learn more about Colma, in Episode #258 of the 99% Invisible podcast which is all about the history of Colma, or at Colma,CA on Wikipedia both of which were sources for this article.

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