SF columbarium running out of space

July 19, 2011 8:19:16 PM PDT
It's one of the only places left in San Francisco to bury a loved one who's passed away. Now, the city's historic columbarium, where some of San Francisco's most prominent figures have been laid to rest, is facing a problem: it's running out of space.

If you have a family member whose ashes are interred in the walls at the Neptune Society's San Francisco columbarium, then you probably know Emmitt Watson. Watson is the caretaker of the century-old building, where he's helped a generation of San Franciscans build tiny memorials to their lost loved ones in the little niches where their ashes are laid to rest.

"I'm just trying to create life within, with death and to do that is to keep that person's memory alive," Watson said.

In his 24 years, Watson's seen cremated remains stored in just about everything. But there was one thing he didn't count on: the columbarium has room in its walls for 8,500 people's remains and now all but 28 of those spots are full. That's why the Neptune Society is having to add three new buildings with a total of 5,300 more of these final resting places.

A ceremonial groundbreaking, attended by local leaders, kicked off construction.

Architects spent years planning the new buildings, which will wrap around the columbarium's grassy courtyard.

"They won't take away from the limelight of the columbarium; the columbarium will always remain the star of this property," architect Patrick Carney said.

In keeping with the columbarium's Greek theme, the new buildings will be called the Hall of Olympians. The first one will open next spring.

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