Eighteen members and seven guests of the Bay Area Travel Writers reached the end of the road on April 15.
The road was actually Oakland’s Piedmont Avenue, a thoroughfare which terminates at the Mountain View Cemetery, long considered both a local and tourist attraction. The hilly green graveyard was designed in 1863 by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect famous for laying out New York’s Central Park and similar projects. It now contains about 200,000 graves, with plenty of room for more.
The 220-acre site is also a quiet refuge and verdant venue for lively local activities including running, picnicking, dog walking, etc. along roads and paths winding among flowers, fountains, stones and statues.
A large mausoleum near the entrance contains a church-like sanctuary. There BATW president Judith Horstman mounted the pulpit while the membership filed into the heavy oaken pews in order to conduct a brief business meeting.
The congregation then reassembled outdoors taking advantage of a warm sunny day to explore the rolling hills and flower-filled landscape.
Leading the group in a walking tour was local historian Dennis Evanosky, author of a book devoted to the cemetery. He pointed out markers small and large, and related stories surrounding prominent San Franciscans and others who were interred on the grounds.
This included a group of small mausoleum houses known now as Millionaires’ Row. One of these was that of the Ghirardelli family famous for their chocolate factory in San Francisco. The cement structure resulted from Domenico Ghiradelli’s irritation at a diplomatic slight by a priest. The chocolate baron retaliated by moving the family’s burial site from the traditional Catholic cemetery to the non-denominational Mountain View site.
Despite the name, the grounds do not provide any view of mountains. But on clear-weather days the dramatic panorama of San Francisco Bay from Millionaires’ Row and many other gravesites obviously makes up for that.