by Arnold Woods
Close to the geographic center of San Francisco, Mount Olympus is located to the south of the Golden Gate Park panhandle in the Ashbury Heights neighborhood. One travels to the top via Upper Terrace, which is lined with homes so that you don’t get a true sense of the view. At the top sits a stone column, a pedestal for a statue that is not there. To find what is missing, we must travel back to a time when the view was magnificent and a rich philanthropist wanted to commemorate liberty.
On Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1887, a ceremony took place atop Mount Olympus. The land belonged to Adolph Sutro and he believed it was the perfect place for a monument. Sutro had seen a statue created by a Belgian artist named Atoine Wiertz and ordered a copy.1 Likely, workers did a large casting of the marble original statue by Wiertz, who had passed away in 1865. It features a 12-foot high “Goddess of Liberty” holding a torch in one raised hand and a sword in the other hand triumphing over a man at her feet, said to be the personification of evil. The statue was entitled the Triumph of Light.
The Thanksgiving Day ceremony featured the Mayor and supervisors, the Presidio band and military forces, some local notables, the Sanchez Street school student body, a large crowd, and, of course, Sutro himself.2 At 11:00 a.m., Judge Solomon Hedenfeldt gave an opening speech praising Sutro and declaring that “liberty is not license, is not anarchy, but that it requires obedience to the law without which it cannot exist.” When the judge finished, the tarp covering the statue was removed unveiling the Triumph of Light.
After the band played “Hail Columbia,” local poet Ella S. Cummins, read a poem she wrote for the occasion. The final verse proclaimed: “Then see! To us is here a goddess given. Who represents man’s highest victory. Proclaiming, as she lifts her hand to heaven, let there be light and liberty.” When Cummins finished, the band played again and the donor finally delivered his remarks. Sutro stated his hope that the Goddess of Liberty would inspire San Franciscans to do “good and noble deeds” that would benefit mankind. Sutro also appointed the Sanchez School students as the permanent custodians of the statue and deeded 100 square feet at the top of Mount Olympus, including the statue site to the City. After more speeches, the dedication ceremony concluded with the band playing “America.” Sutro and some of the notables at the ceremony then took a procession of carriages back to Sutro Heights for lunch.
At the time the Triumph of Light was unveiled, Alvarado Mortimer Fuller was stationed at the Presidio. Fuller, who would eventually rise to the rank of Colonel, was an inventor, who among other inventions, patented plans for a small submarine. When not soldiering or inventing, Fuller also dabbled in writing. So why are we talking about Fuller in the middle of this article about the Triumph of Light? In 1887, Fuller published a science-fiction novel called A.D. 2000.3 In the novel, the protagonist develops a sleep chamber that allows him to go to sleep in 1880s San Francisco and then wake up in 2000s San Francisco. Interestingly, the location for the sleep chamber in the book is inside the base of the recently constructed Triumph of Light statue.
As time passed, civilization creeped up the slopes of Mount Olympus. Time was also taking its toll on the statue, which began looking worse for the wear, losing both the torch and sword. In 1926, the area around the Triumph of Light was dedicated as a public park and some effort was made to fix things up. Sutro’s daughter, Dr. Emma Sutro Merritt, consulted experts about restoring it, but was told that it was hopeless.
By 1954, the City’s Art Commission found the Triumph of Light to be “beyond repair” and that it was recommending the statue be demolished.4 They wanted to take it down and replace it with a statue called “Peace” by Benjamin Bufano that had been donated to the City, but hadn’t been placed yet. Sometime over the next few years, the Triumph of Light was removed and replaced…with nothing.5 The pedestal for the statue has stood tall in the small Mount Olympus park for over 60 years now, a vestige of days past where an inspiring view was marked with art designed to inspire our dedication to liberty.
1. “The Story of the Statue on San Francisco’s Mount Olympus,” by Alfred Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, June 5, 1938, This World section, p. 28.
2. “The Liberty Statue: Its Impressive Unveiling Ceremonies,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 25, 1887, p. 6.
4. “Statue Given By Sutro May Be Destroyed,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 2, 1954, p. 14.
5. “Mount Olympus: View From City’s Center,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 24, 1958, p. 3.
by Arnold Woods
Beginning in 1854 with the establishment of what was eventually called the Laurel Hill Cemetery, the Lone Mountain area became the original “city of the dead” for San Francisco. Laurel Hill was found to the north of Geary between Presidio and Parker, where you would now find part of the UCSF campus and the Laurel Heights neighborhood. In 1860, the Roman Catholic church bought the land between Geary and Turk and east of Masonic to open the Calvary Cemetery. Today, you would go shopping there at the City Center complex. In 1864, the Masons fraternal organization opened the Masonic Cemetery on the south slope of Lone Mountain, where you would find USF today.
The reason these cemeteries were located in the Lone Mountain area was that in the 1850s and 1860s, this area was so far out of town that they were, in fact, outside the city limits of San Francisco at that time. It wasn’t until 1866 that the Outside Lands Act brought this area into city limits. After the Masons opened their cemetery, the third cemetery on the slopes of Lone Mountain, another fraternal organization followed suit.
155 years ago this week, on November 19, 1865, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows opened their own cemetery. The Odd Fellows Cemetery was located on the west slope of Lone Mountain, between Geary and Turk and west of Parker. At that time, there were very few public parks to be found, so cemeteries were developed as “green space” with park-like landscaping.
Although this was the Odd Fellows’ cemetery, others could buy plots there and some groups purchased sections there. One was a Greek Cemetery section near today’s Stanyan and Golden Gate intersection. The Grand Army of the Republic, the Civil War Veteran’s group, purchased a plat of land there and would hold Memorial Day parades that started downtown and ended at the Odd Fellows Cemetery.
Perhaps the most prominent person interred at the Odd Fellows Cemetery was Charles de Young, the co-founder (with his brother Henry) and publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. De Young was shot and killed on April 23, 1880 by the son of the mayor of San Francisco, the culmination of an escalating feud between the mayor and the newspaperman. The funeral service for de Young, an Odd Fellow member, began at his home on Eddy Street. Then a procession of carriages took him to his not-so-final resting place (we’ll get to that) at the Odd Fellows Cemetery.1 De Young’s widow later had a magnificent monument to her husband built at the cemetery near the entrance. Perhaps not surprisingly considering the source, the entrance to the Odd Fellows Cemetery was later cited as the “most picturesque of any of the cemeteries.2”
The Odd Fellows Cemetery was funded by the sale of gravesites, from which the grounds were maintained. As the cemetery filled up though, there was no longer sufficient monies to keep the site up and it began to look worse for the wear. Consequently, the Odd Fellows looked for a new source of funding. Their solution, in 1895, was to open a crematorium on the grounds and began advertising cremation as an alternative to burial.
Of course, once someone was cremated, you might need a place to store the ashes. So the Odd Fellows Cemetery opened a striking new building called the Columbarium. It was designed by architect Bernard J.S. Cahill in a neo-Classical style and featured a copper dome. Construction started just after Easter in 18973 and was completed around the end of the year,4 in time to be opened in early 1898.
While Odd Fellows and its fellow Lone Mountain cemeteries started out in the boonies, San Francisco quickly spread westward to and past the cemeteries. As early as the 1880s, there were calls to move the cemeteries in order to put the land to better use, although couched in terms of the potential health hazards of having cemeteries so close to the population. On March 26, 1900, the supervisors passed an ordinance prohibiting burials within city limits, which would take effect on August 1, 1901.5 The ultimate goal was the removal of the cemeteries completely and the Odd Fellows saw the writing on the wall. As with other cemeteries, they looked south to Colma and purchased land there in 1904 for a new cemetery which they named Green Lawn Cemetery.
After banning burials, San Francisco, on November 21, 1910, took the next step and banned cremations within city limits.6 The same year, the United States Supreme Court upheld the City’s ban on burials.7 Although it would not be until the 1930s before the City began forcing Odd Fellows and other cemeteries to remove bodies, the end was nigh. Relatives of the deceased at Odd Fellows Cemetery were given notice in 1912 to move their loved ones. Charles de Young, as one example, was moved to Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma. In 1932, some 26,000 graves were moved from the Odd Fellows Cemetery to Green Lawn Cemetery.
By the end of 1933, San Francisco was rapidly converting a portion of the Odd Fellows Cemetery grounds into Rossi Playground. In 1949, the Coronet Theatre opened on Geary on a small part of the former Odd Fellows Cemetery. Other public, private, and governmental uses were made of the cemetery land. However, one part of the Odd Fellows Cemetery still remains. The Columbarian was allowed to stay and it passed through different owners over the years, but eventually fell into disrepair. Finally, it was purchased by the Neptune Society, which rededicated it on September 10, 1980 and began a long and costly restoration effort.8 It can still be visited today, though perhaps not while the pandemic continues to rage.
For a more complete history of the Odd Fellows Cemetery, see the cemetery’s website. You can also listen to our Outside Lands Podcast about the Cemeteries of the Inner Richmond or the Outside Lands Podcast about the Columbarium.
1. “The Last Rites: Funeral Services Of Charles De Young Yesterday,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 24, 1880, p. 3.
2. “Costly Monuments Over Departed Citizens,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 7, 1886, p. 5.
3. “Real Estate Market And Building Notes,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 21, 1897, p. 8.
4. “Real Estate Market And Building Notes,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 2, 1897, p. 7.
5. “The Cemeteries To Be Closed,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 28, 1900, p. 6.
6. “Cremation Is Prohibited,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 22, 1910, p. 8.
7. Laurel Hill Cemetery v. San Francisco, 216 U.S. 358 (1910).
8. “S.F. Columbarium Is Dedicated Anew,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 11, 1980, p. 7.
by Arnold Woods
As was noted by Western Neighborhoods Project founder Woody LaBounty in a blog post several years ago, our OpenSFHistory collection contains photos from tourists on vacation in our great City. We don’t know these people, but we can walk in their footsteps as we follow along on their travels. One such set of photos are of a sailor doing largely tourist-y things back in the 1930s.
With numerous military bases around the Bay, San Francisco has long been a hot spot for members of the military to visit while on leave here. One such military member was this Navy sailor, a handsome, young chap, back in the pre-World War II era. We begin our journey with him at a coffee shop at Judah and La Playa, the future site of today’s Java Beach. He is looking north toward Golden Gate Park and appears to be contemplating how he will be spending his day off.
Leaving the coffee shop, our sailor takes a stroll up the Great Highway Esplanade. Across from the northwest corner of Golden Gate Park, he sees Roald Amundsen’s Gjoa displayed near the Beach Chalet. As a sailor himself, he appreciates the courage and skill it took for Amundsen and his crew to sail the Northwest Passage. To remember the moment, he poses for a picture with the Gjoa and the Dutch Windmill behind him.
Feeling that his first picture with the Gjoa was too mundane, our sailor poses for a second shot. This one is a cheeky, fun picture of him behind a light pole with the Gjoa and Beach Chalet seen across the Great Highway in the background. There’s a big smile on his face. He’s having a good day at Ocean Beach so far and the fun is only beginning.
A little further to the north, our sailor takes in the sights at Lands End. He hops up on the seawall to enjoy the view. From there, he enjoys this perspective of the Cliff House, Seal Rocks, the Lurline Pier, and Adolph Sutro’s grand estate atop Sutro Heights. Like so many others who have visited the Outside Lands, our sailor appears to have realized that perhaps he should have brought a coat.
Now at the north end of Ocean Beach, our sailor spots Playland at the Beach across the street. Perhaps this was his destination all along. What young man wouldn’t want to spend some time at the amusement park by the ocean? We see him by the Seaplane ride at Playland. Did he just disembark from a flight? Does he serve aboard a Naval aircraft carrier and feel an affinity for planes at sea?
After the walk up the Ocean Beach Esplanade to Playland, our soldier needs a snack. Playland offers so many choices. Perhaps some Mexican food at the Hot House. Or an It’s It ice cream. Maybe some chicken from Topsy’s Roost in the former Ocean Beach Pavilion. Our sailor opts for a candy apple. He bites in as he contemplates what to do next.
After finishing the candy apple, our sailor needs to wash it down with something. He polishes off what looks to be a mug of beer, but perhaps it is a soda or cider, as he peers out toward the Pacific Ocean. What a grand day he has had. But who has he spent it with? Someone has been on the other side of that camera. Is it a girlfriend? Parents? Navy buddies? We may never know, but we’re glad that our sailor has had good company for his day by the beach. Our sailor is not done, however. There is one more stop he wants to make.
Finally, our sailor heads to City Hall to finish off his day by paying respect to the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln. He looks to have a book with him. Is he reading the great words of Lincoln? Why did he think it was important to come to this spot? We do not know the name or anything about our young sailor. Do you recognize him? If so, please contact us and let us know the real story behind these photos. Nevertheless, we are delighted to have been able to follow a day in the life of this young sailor.
by Arnold Woods
The San Francisco Seals were charter members of the Pacific Coast League formed in 1903. They initially played their home games at Recreation Park (also known as Central Park) at Market and 8th Street until it was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. After playing out the 1906 season at the Oakland Oaks’ stadium, they returned to San Francisco to play at a new Recreation Park at Valencia and 14th Street in 1907. After the 1913 season though, Seals’ owner, Cal Ewing went looking for a new field because of issues with his lease at Recreation Park.
In October 1913, Ewing found a spot at the foot of Lone Mountain for a new ballpark.1 While a new ballpark would take years to build these days, Ewing assured fans that the new stadium would open in time for the 1914 season. He also said that baseball was done with Recreation Park.
Living up to his word, Ewing opened his eponymously-named field for the 1914 season. Ewing spent $100,000 building the park and he left room for the addition of more seating if it proved necessary. The home opener occurred on May 16, 1914 with a record PCL crowd of 18,000 people.2 However, true to its location, the crowd was treated to a cold wind off Lone Mountain. Unfortunately, the Seals’ bats were silent for the entire game and they lost to the Oaks 3-0.
The Seals finished the 1914 season in 2nd place with a 115-96 record. Indeed, the Seals played 211 games that season. After the season was over, the major leaguers came to Ewing Field. Back in that era, the pay for professional baseball players was not great and the major league stars frequently spent their off-season on barnstorming tours to supplement their incomes. On November 3, 1914, the major league all-stars played a game at Ewing Field.3 Northern California’s own Bill James, recent hero for the 1914 champion Boston Braves team, pitched the National League stars to a 4-2 victory over the American League stars. It was the first game of a week’s worth of games in San Francisco and Oakland.
After the 1914 PCL season, Ewing entered into a deal to sell the Seals to some of the owners of the Los Angeles Angels. There was only one hitch. The prospective owners did not want to play at the frequently foggy Lone Mountain field.4 The deal was finalized in December 1914 with the new owners entering into a secondary deal with the Olympic Club, which had leased Recreation Park after the Seals left. Under that deal, the Olympic Club moved their activities to Ewing Field for two years and the Seals would return to Recreation Park where they would play until they opened Seals Stadium at Valencia and 16th Streets in 1931.
With the Seals leaving, the next competition at Ewing Field was, in fact, another baseball game. On February 14, 1915, a PCL all-star squad faced off against some major leaguers in a charity game that benefited an injured player.5 Thereafter, Ewing Field became the main soccer venue in the City. Baseball returned once again to Ewing Field in the fall of 1915 with several games that were part of the U.S. Amateur Baseball Championship.6 In addition to soccer, Ewing Field hosted a number of other sporting events in the ensuing years. This included rugby, boxing, and high school baseball games. There was even an attempt to have a performance of Aida at Ewing Field on September 30, 1916, but it was rained out.7
In the 1920s, the stadium became a prime location for high school and college football games, including the first East-West Shrine Game on December 26, 1925.8 However, with the opening of Kezar Stadium in May 1925 and a fire that destroyed portions of the grandstands and bleachers on June 5, 1926,9 Ewing Field’s days as a prime sporting venue were doomed. It lingered around hosting minor events until June 1938 when the Heyman Brothers purchased the property for $150,000.10 They razed it and built housing in a new subdivision known as Ewing Terrace. Ewing Field’s heyday as the prime athletic venue in San Francisco may have only lasted a little over a decade, but it brought a diversity of competition to the west side. For a more detailed look at Ewing Field, read Angus MacFarlane’s article or listen to the Outside Lands Podcast about it.
1. “Seals’ New Baseball Park Located At Foot Of Lone Mountain,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 11, 1913, p. 25.
2. “Record Crowd Of 18,000 Opens Ewing Field,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 17, 1914, p. 65.
3. “Bill James Wins Over Joe Bush in First of All-Star Games Here,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 4, 1914, p. 5.
4. “Berry Brothers and Tom Stephens Here to Close Deal to Buy Seals,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 18, 1914, p. 5.
5. “All-Coasters Beat Major Leaguers in the Swain Benefit Baseball Game,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 15, 1915, p. 4.
6. “Cleveland Stages 8-Run Rally To Shut Out the Tacoma Tigers,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 24, 1915, p. 48.
7. “Rain Stops Aida, Lloyds Lose $25,000 Weather Bet,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 1, 1916, p. 29.
8. “West Takes Measure Of East Stars, 6-0,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 27, 1925, p. 1H.
9. “100 Blazes Rage At Once In S.F.,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 6, 1926, p. 1.
10. “Work on Ewing Subdivision to Start in Sept.,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 25, 1938, p. 10.