An Overview of Cypress Lawn’s Rich History in the Bay Area

A homeland. A sanctuary. A history of people. This is Cypress Lawn. We have a deep history of according respect to the communities that make up the Bay Area and bestowing reverence upon the families who come to us. It’s a responsibility and reputation we take very seriously.

Since 1892, the team at Cypress Lawn has been telling the stories of the Italian, Irish, Filipino, Latin American, Chinese, Armenian, Iranian, and Samoan immigrants and their descendants who have made this area their home, weaving a beautiful tapestry of heritage and culture so reflective of the families we serve.

In the late 1800s, as California began to boom with industry and immigration, so too did the need for a place to lay loved ones to rest. But many people were land-hungry, and that made procuring land for cemeteries difficult. Founder of Cypress Lawn, Hamden Noble, was inspired to solve the problem of adequate burial grounds after observing Laurel Hills Cemetery – an at-capacity eyesore within the city limits. Keen to preserve the dignity and respect due to those interred, Noble and other civic leaders established Cypress Lawn Memorial Park. Taking cues from Eastern cemeteries, Noble sought to establish a peaceful, beautiful, and serene memorial for families in the Bay Area. Ironically, when the city sought to ‘eject’ those buried in Laurel Hill, the very site of Noble’s initial inspiration, he agreed to reinter 35,000 people – many of the original pioneers of the West – at Cypress Lawn.

Carefully maintained gardens and stunning memorial statues and monuments created by some of the leading architects, sculptors, and stained glass artists of the early 20th century helped make Cypress Lawn both a museum and a memorial to the people who are buried here; and to the art, politics, faith, and individualism that make up California itself.

This history and legacy had to be preserved, so a board of directors was established to watch over it – beginning with some of the first names in California history: Crocker, Flood, Buck, and Newell. Notable members have also included: Charles Felton, Co-founder of the oil company that would become Chevron and member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, Irving Scott, a partner in the Union Iron Works, George W. McNear, who owned large-scale wheat interests, and John Taylor, who manufactured mining and mill machinery, chemicals, and chemical supplies.

Recent renovations on the Lakeside Columbarium

Today, additional steps have been taken to preserve the deep history here and celebrate the site as a landmark of art, cultural history, and education. This includes the founding of the Cypress Lawn Heritage Foundation. In addition to active preservation and restoration, we wanted to make the grounds at Cypress Lawn available to the general public as a rich local resource for guided tours, activities, lectures and more. In 2015, we introduced personalized bronze memorials, glass-front niches and the “Garden of Light” on the grounds of Cypress Lawn Memorial Park. This cremation garden features beautiful scenery and stunning Golden Gate mosaic niches – a work of art and a lasting memorial for our Bay Area families.

Today, Cypress Lawn serves as both an incomparable historic resource and a tranquil place where people can be buried with dignity and respect. The past truly is present here. Whether your needs include funeral or cemetery services, our professional staff can help you honor the memory of your loved one and guide you through the grieving process, including the Acute Loss Period. Planning a funeral, graveside service or reception can seem overwhelming during a time of loss. Our goal as your trusted friend and neighbor is to help tell your loved one’s story and preserve it for future generations.

Cypress Lawn is proud to have spent over a century serving all the cultures that make up the Bay Area. We hope that your history and reputation offers your family the confidence and peace of mind to say goodbye.