San Francisco History

Marine Hospital

Dates of Existence: ~1881 to 1912
Location: Presidio, behind Public Health Service Hospital at 15th Avenue and Wedemeyer Street, covered over by a parking lot and tennis court.
Number interred: 200 to 838; see Possible Marine Hospital Burial Index

"...located just beyond the closed Public Health Service Hospital near 15th Avenue and Lake Street, is invisible. The graves, which once had neat wooden headstones enclosed by a fence, were buried under 16 feet of debris from excavations of a missile site in the 1950s... The cemetery had its beginnings more than 130 years ago when the U.S. Treasury Department leased land at the Presidio to set up the San Francisco Marine Hospital, which took care of the health needs of merchant mariners.   The hospital opened in 1875. In 1881, the adjacent cemetery was first mentioned in records of the Marine Hospital Service. Burials continued there for at least 31 years, or until 1912..."

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "SAN FRANCISCO, Merchant seamen forgotten in death, Mariners' cemetery buried in debris, used as parking lot", Carl Nolte, 25 November 2006. article online

"... Subsurface remains of the cemetery associated with the early history of this facility exist, and lie largely beneath an extensive paved court and parking area located on the rise near the southwest corner of the upper plateau. Historical research suggests that a substantial cemetery once existed behind the former Marine Hospital. While records could not be found to establish that the burials of the cemetery had been relocated, the Army assumed that a relocation had taken place. In 1990 the Army conducted a test excavation in an area presumed to have been the Marine Hospital Cemetery and found the remains of two burials below almost 15 feet of concrete rubble. In 2002, field investigations for environmental remediation of Landfill 8 by the Trust also encountered human remains near the ground surface (URS 2003). Historical research suggests that the remains of approximately 500 to 600 individuals are interred in the cemetery. ..."

Source: Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, The Public Health Service Hospital at the Presidio of San Francisco  (August 2004), page 147. online

"... The Marine Cemetery, located north of the present-day hospital, was created in the late 1880s to bury those who died while at the hospital. The list of burials, which is estimated to include as many as 585 graves, includes sailors from around the world, ranging from Scandinavia to the Hawaiian Islands. The cemetery was used until approximately 1915, when interments stopped. Photos taken in the 1930s make it clear that the cemetery was maintained with neat rows of white grave markers. Photos from the 1950s indicate that the grave markers were no longer present, although the cemetery site can be clearly distinguished. In 1969, in order to construct a large parking lot north of the hospital that could be connected to the hospital by a pedestrian bridge, fill was added on top of the western portion of the cemetery to provide a level grade for the parking lot. Excavations performed in 1994 in the area of the former cemetery identified human remains under approximately 10 feet of fill, confirming that the grave sites remain to this day. ..."

Source: Environmental Assessment, The Public Health Service Hospital at the Presidio of San Francisco (February 2004), Appendix A page 8. online


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