Archive for the ‘Cemetery knockers’ Category

Changes coming to Mountain View Cemetery’s landscape

4 July 2016

Mountain View Cemetery is one of Oakland’s great civic ornaments for several reasons: its gravestones and tombs commemorate generations of historically important Bay Areans, and its plan was Frederick Law Olmsted’s second significant large-scale project in landscape design after New York’s Central Park. It’s a fine piece of open space that’s used by many different groups of people.


I think of the cemetery as a great civic ornament for two special reasons of my own. First, it’s a superb display of Oakland’s natural landscape as the first settlers knew it.


Second, it’s got some great exposures of Franciscan melange, the mixture of rock types that was created by the tectonic collision between the North America and Farallon plates about 90 million years ago.


The cemetery’s operators are planning to reoccupy and develop the highest part of the grounds, the two heights in this photo taken from the Catholic cemetery next door.


Here’s the view from up there. The cemetery proposes putting in roads and formal structures in the foreground and up on the hill beyond the fence, behind the greensward.


The goal is to accommodate about 1500 more grave plots. A lot of dirt and rock will be dug up and moved around. The plan talks of building up the hilltop and tilting it toward the bay for better views.

The city’s master page for the proposed work is here. The draft environmental impact report is there, plus info on two upcoming hearings (July 11 for the Landmarks Preservation Board, July 20 for the Planning Commission). This month is the public’s most influential time window.

The land beyond the fence is a special bit of countryside . . .


. . . with its own constituency.


It also has its share of rock outcrops. To me these are precious things. Most outcrops in these hills either were blown up during development or are locked up in people’s back yards.


I’m still thinking about what I want to tell the city. But my basic concerns are that the natural character of the land — its contours and vegetation — be respected and preserved as much as practicable. The project will affect a landmark that hundreds of thousands of people enjoy from their own windows and yards.

Olmsted considered these hills the essential setting for the elegant, transformative parkland he planned here in 1863. Mountain View was, and remains, an icon of the City Beautiful movement and a destination for landscape architects everywhere. It and Stanford University (designed in 1888) are the only major Olmsted projects in the Bay area.


This amazing cemetery is Oakland’s cemetery. Let’s speak up to help keep it as beautiful as possible.

Mountain View Cemetery rocks: The back forty

7 December 2015


Mountain View Cemetery is a never-failing source of interest. If you tire of graves, then why not collect the knockers exposed in this splendid preserve of Franciscan melange. I haven’t featured them here in several years, but recently the weather up there was especially photogenic. The one above, near the north edge west of the Cogswell monument, is my favorite, but they’re hard to choose among. Let’s say that knocker 1, my “secret chert,” is my favorite in the civilized part of the cemetery.

As you climb the hills, it’s natural to look around, away from where you are. Lately the cemetery managers have eliminated the overbearing fringe of eucalyptus along the rear, and the views north are enticing.


If you look carefully, maybe you can spot Cactus Rock, a leading candidate for the mysterious Rockridge Rock. It’s at the bottom of this shot, in the middle.


But the view south hasn’t changed. This is the cemetery’s back forty, looking nearly unchanged after 150 years.


Here’s a look at it head on, over the uppermost of the three ponds that occupy the headwaters of Glen Echo Creek. It’s not fenced off, so it’s open to exploration.


Up the course of the creek is another small basin, above which the creek briefly emerges from a culvert. This is its current birthplace.


The hillside gravel here — what geologists call the float — samples several different rock types that occur in the melange. Red chert, graywacke and some sort of serpentinized thingy is visible just in this small footprint. There’s also green chert, greenstone and basalt around.


Here’s the graywacke — a dirty sandstone — close up.


And this is my favorite knocker (one of several) in the UNcivilized part of the cemetery.


It’s made of the high-grade green chert, whereas the first knocker I showed is the classic red ribbon chert. You could brave the traffic and see a huge expanse of it in the Marin Headlands, which is a nice field trip. Or you could stroll here and have it all to yourself, as long as I’m not hanging around.

Knocker 10

11 July 2012

Mountain View Cemetery has been clearing its upper reaches aggressively this year—so much so that a new knocker came into my ken the other week. This view is looking down at it from the brow of the maintenance area, sheltered by a clump of trees.

knocker 10

It appears to be the usual sandstone, although I didn’t inspect it closely. There is a good deal of poison oak around it, as there is near its neighbor, the “high knocker“:


Knocker 10 overlooks the new Golden Lotus Mountain section.

If you haven’t been up to the top of the cemetery lately, the view east is phenomenal with the eucalyptus trees gone.