There are only three cemeteries left within the city limits of San Francisco.

Note the phrase carefully: “left” in San Francisco. There were once far more than just three, which makes perfect sense — after all, thousands upon thousands of San Franciscans have passed away since the establishment of Yerba Buena 170 years ago, and they all required a final resting place.

The question is, what happened to them… and where are they now?

I present today a short history of cemeteries in San Francisco, as well as the answer to the question of which three still remain.

For further edification:
» John Blackett’s San Francisco cemetery history - maps + photos
» San Francisco Genealogy - cemetery history
» San Francisco Virtual Museum - cemetery history
» recent Civic Center excavations
» San Francisco Columbarium

Note
Tyler, a loyal listener, sent in an interesting addendum to this story. After a visit to the spot he mentions, I’m certain that he’s right. Photos and his note appear below.

“The more I learn about SF’s cemeteries, the more I am convinced that the retaining wall in the attached photos is constructed of grave markers. It’s in Noe Valley, at the SE corner of Castro & Valley Streets. The sidewalk is about 4 ft. below the level of the road here. Apparently some resourceful DPW engineer decided to use what was available at the time: abundant, cheap, pre-cut, very high quality granite slabs. The fact that they have names on them does not make them any less effective.”