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April 21, 2014 3:22 PM   Subscribe

The gutters in San Francisco's Buena Vista Park are made out of old headstones. Placed by the WPA program back in the late 1930s, the stones are said to be broken headstones and markers from unclaimed graves.
posted by flyingsquirrel (19 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

The psychic energy from this blasphemy has resulted in the spectre of inordinately high costs of living.
posted by Apocryphon at 3:29 PM on April 21 [6 favorites]

When it became apparent that the best use of land inside the San Francisco city limits was for housing/businesses, etc. a lot of the cemeteries were closed and the deceased re-located to Colma which has more dead residents than living. So, left over gravestones and cemetery carvings have been used throughout the City. For instance, the Wave Organ in the Marina.
posted by agatha_magatha at 3:31 PM on April 21 [2 favorites]

Here is a nice summary of the cemeteries and what happened to them. Mission Dolores, the Presidio and the Columbarium are all that remain inside city limits.
posted by agatha_magatha at 3:39 PM on April 21

How very sad.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:40 PM on April 21

This has happened rather a lot in some towns in England. Old burying grounds taken over for new uses have been paved with old headstones. Cathedral Square in Sheffield is a well-known example, but I think part of St Ann's Square in Manchester is the same, as well as bits and pieces of York. I believe St Michael's Flags in Manchester also was paved with headstones (at least it was once a graveyard), and there's a bizarre railway bank in Leeds likewise paved. Sheffield General Cemetary, which is still a graveyard, even has gutters made from stones, as in the article (indeed, you can easily read the names and dates off some, such as Joseph Gill, here).
posted by Thing at 3:48 PM on April 21

They moved the bodies...but they didn't move the headstones

*shrieky violins*
not quite the same is it
posted by sidereal at 4:15 PM on April 21 [15 favorites]

Ya die, ya rot.
Stone is cut and crumbles.
In the end, nothing will be left of any of us.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:45 PM on April 21

Filmmaker Trina Lopez made a film back in 2004 about the relocation of San Francisco's cemeteries called A Second Final Rest. Here's the documentary's FAQ page about San Francisco cemetery relocation.
posted by larrybob at 5:02 PM on April 21 [2 favorites]

When it became apparent that the best use of land inside the San Francisco city limits was for housing/businesses, etc.

So San Francisco gentrification isn't new and isn't restricted to displacing the living.

Good to know.

Bonus: can we blame Google somehow?
posted by GuyZero at 5:03 PM on April 21

How very sad.

I'll say! If you're going to dig up a graveyard and relocate all the remains, the least you could do is arrange the skulls into decorative patterns!
posted by aubilenon at 5:51 PM on April 21 [3 favorites]


About 20 years ago, the local National cemetery for veterans (from the civil war all the way to the present) replaced a lot of broken marble and granite headstones with brand new headstones. My dad, an undertaker with a side business in monument sales, picked up most of the broken headstones and took them back to our home.

All of this is to say: the border around my garden is made of marble veteran headstones that were busted up with sledgehammers by my little brother and me. True story.
posted by ColdChef at 7:28 PM on April 21 [14 favorites]

A similar thing happened some years ago here in Athens when the marble paving in one of the most central squares in the city, right outside the parliament building, was busted up during a riot. I don't know if throwing broken gravestones at the police is a +1 or -1 to hit, but I wouldn't be surprised either way.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:15 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]

posted by rhizome at 11:00 PM on April 21

I think this is a tragically rude thing that San Francisco did. I hope that this will never happen to my grave.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:30 AM on April 22

"You will be remembered only in the gutters."
posted by oceanjesse at 3:32 AM on April 22

I don't think flesh or burial location is sacrosanct, but that's just me.

I remember a long-ago conversation with my friend Joe about the morality of cannibalizing the flesh of dead people in order to not die. I told him that if we were in a plane crash ala "Alive" he should aboslutely feel free to use my flesh to survive. He agreed.
It was a hollow offer on my part though because Joe has no fat and loses his mind if he misses lunch.

My friend Drew wants to be taxidermied, stuffed that is. I told him I was good with that as long as it was in a useful position, like a coat rack. Drew will probably outlive me though.

Burial grounds and cemeteries are a luxury only available to places with low population density. Places with high population density, like India, find other solutions depending on the dictates of their religious and cultural practices.

Me? If the Mythbusters series continues and they accept donations I might get my 15 minutes, divided among several segments of course.
posted by vapidave at 4:35 AM on April 22 [2 favorites]

I thought I was looking at my own photo for a moment.
posted by obloquy at 8:41 AM on April 22

I think this is a tragically rude thing that San Francisco did. I hope that this will never happen to my grave.

I'd say that it's significantly more rude to assume that any person deserves a monument and 6 ft of space to take up for the rest of history.

The best way to avoid having one's grave "defiled" is to arrange not to have a grave. It's unsustainable to assume that everyone will get to have a burial plot forever.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:40 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]

Try to buy a grave plot in perpetuity today and see how far you get. Nothing lasts forever, including graves.
posted by GuyZero at 11:59 AM on April 22

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