Why You Should Visit Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland

Mountain View Cemetery © M.O. Stevens/Wikipedia
Mountain View Cemetery © M.O. Stevens/Wikipedia
Photo of Courtney Holcomb
4 November 2016

Nestled in between the Oakland and Piedmont hills sits Mountain View Cemetery, a burial ground filled with some of the most gorgeous and elaborate architecture and landscaping in the entire Bay Area. Visit this garden cemetery to pay your respects to those who came before you as you wander among winding roadways shaded by elegant trees.

Mountain View Cemetery | © DarkCryst/Wikipedia

Design and History

Constructed in 1863, Mountain View Cemetery stretches across 226 acres of land. The landscape was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, famous for designing Central Park in New York City and Capitol Grounds in DC, as well as parts of Yosemite and the UC Berkeley and Stanford campuses. Olmsted’s design was intended to convey the harmonious relationship between humanity and the nature it resides in, to which man’s soul always returns. He incorporated live oaks, Italian pines and cypresses, and Lebanese cedar trees, lining a long avenue intertwined with curving pathways. The grounds are dotted with simple columbariums, in addition to three pyramid-shaped mausoleums. In his designs, Olmsted included influences from American Transcendentalism and grand Parisian monuments, recalling mythological gardens like Eden to stunning effect.

Mountain View Cemetery | © Hank chapot/Wikipedia

Millionaire’s Row

Attracted to the cemetery by Olmsted’s strong reputation, many of California’s most important historical figures opted to be buried there. One of the main draws of the cemetery is Millionaire’s Row, a section where the most grand, elaborate crypts stand, housing some of the cemetery’s most famous inhabitants. Some of the people buried here include Hearst Castle architect Julia Morgan, Alexander and Josephine Dunsmuir of Dunsmuir House, Anthony Chabot of Chabot Observatory, railroad tycoon Charles Crocker, Domingo Ghirardelli of Ghirardelli Chocolate, Oakland mayor Samuel Crockett, and the “Black Dahlia” Elizabeth Short. Millionaire’s Row is located at the peak of a hill, giving visitors a gorgeous view over Oakland.

The Gothic Chapel at Mountain View Cemetery | © Daniel Ramirez/Wikipedia


The cemetery grounds are open to the public daily from 6:30AM to 7:30PM. The mausoleum is open from 8AM to 4:30PM on weekdays, plus 10AM to 4PM on weekends. Docent-led tours are offered semi-monthly, guiding visitors through the grounds and up to the crest of Millionaire’s Row. To get to the cemetery, you can take highways 80, 580, or 24, arriving at Piedmont Avenue. If you’re visiting the cemetery, you might also want to check out the Chapel of the Chimes Columbarium down the street, designed by Julia Morgan, as well as the nearby Saint Mary Cemetery.

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