You probably drive past Mountain View Cemetery frequently, just running errands around the city. If you have stopped by the place, then you know this huge cemetery feels like an oasis. Our Frederick Law Olmsted legacy also features spectacular views that visitors and denizens appreciate together.
Whether you have been to Mountain View before or not, we think it’s worth taking an official cemetery tour. Join the Oakland Heritage Alliance’s annual visit this Saturday, from 10:00 am – 12:30 pm. You will be introduced to old movers and shakers interred here, along with some interesting monuments. This hilly tour meets up at the Chapel of the Chimes (4499 Piedmont Ave, map), and costs $15/head to benefit the Alliance.
The Genesis of Mountain View
Well, Dr. Samuel Merritt and his buddies didn’t want to be buried downtown in the depressing, Webster Street burial ground anymore. After Christmas Day 1863, Merritt organized a fateful meeting of city elites along with up-and-comer Rev. Isaac Brayton, who owned some lovely hillside acreage. Brayton willingly sold this land, used his proceeds to finance the College of California (later Berkeley) and, of course, now rests peacefully at Mountain View.
These Oaklanders wanted a fabulous place for eternity, and asked Frederick Law Olmsted to design his first-ever cemetery. According to The Monthly, Olmsted “recommended a handful of Mediterranean plant species and one indigenous tree – the evergreen oak – to create a more formal, low-water, low-maintenance landscape. He was more than a century ahead of his time in thinking about drought-resistant and native plants.”
Who’s Buried At Mountain View
You’ll find former captains of industry, politicians and other famed Westerners. The ones you probably know best are railroad titan Charles Crocker, chocolatier Domingo Ghirardelli, architect Julia Morgan and murder victim “Black Dahlia.” Notable Oaklanders include industrialist “Borax” Smith, poet laureate and Jack London mentor Ina Coolbrith, and even Leland Stanford’s brother Josiah, who produced the first Californian champagne.
We poured through a Mountain View site, and discovered other interesting denizens. Foodies will appreciate the mother of olive oil, Freda Ehmann, or the father of the Pacific fruit industry, Henderson Luelling. Educational leaders there include U.S. kindergarten movement founder Emma Marwedel and California’s public education system founder John Swett.
Plus two folks who left a nice legacy are Sarah Plummer, who made the poppy our state flower; and Glenn Burke, the A’s ballplayer credited with inventing the high-five!
Of course, hearing cultural and historical perspectives from the Oakland Heritage Alliance will shed far more light. We’re fortunate to have some real experts, historians and architectural buffs who care about Mountain View. If you can’t make this Alliance tour, then no worries – check out the cemetery schedule for other docent-lead, free tours.
More info: Mountain View Site – Cemetery Events – Tomb with a View – Lives of the Dead: Mountain View Cemetery People – Oakland Museum’s Online Exhibit – Cemetery Book Preview – Cemetery Book Order – Oakland Heritage Alliance