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258- The Modern Necropolis

2017-05-09 | 🔗

In the town of Colma, California, the dead outnumber the living by a thousand to one. Located just ten miles south of San Francisco, Colma is filled with rolling green hills, manicured hedges, and 17 full size cemeteries (18 if … Continue reading →

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent invisible. I'm roman Mars homer ten miles south of San Francisco toward the airport. There's a town called I've never been to school. You can take the train, I that's produce every trouble me up. Or it, oh, my god, right beyond the train station already these rolling green hills hampered with tombstones seven three percent of the land. In coma is covered with graveyards, just rose rose ass. They gravestones it houses, there is full size cemeteries together in one town. Eighty, if you
That's a this is huge It is a city of the dead wood known as a necropolis. We, claim to be the only necropolis the United States anyway, the only city there is primarily dedicated to cemeteries, this Maureen Oconnor, president of the commission, Sterical association. It does me There are a lot of cities, it don't have cemeteries within their boundaries, but nothing of the concentration that we have here and coma. Truly, looks like a sprawling city alone. Escape of Muslims and monuments and towers and tombstones there In turn, the sun, for, as far as I can see, but it is equally quiet. Here, the dead outnumber the living thousand to one. We have sixteen hundred living citizens and we
about one and a half million residents who live underground or in Moslems Maureen about her dead neighbours and her living neighbours with the same vocabulary like when she referred to John Daily, the long deceased, dairy magnet. John Daily, for whom daily City is named, one of our neighbours, she's a lot of famous neighbours like Joe D, Amato and Levi Strauss of Levi Genes and Tina Turner, Dog, then, the pad cemetery they're all around and Marines houses, literally sandwiched between two different cemeteries. I live across from the italian cemetery. The front of my house and in the back of my backyard borders with japanese cemetery and I have two human neighbours on east and west, The official town motto of Coma is it's great to be alive in Coma, it's great to be alive and coma
Coma had many lives before it became the modern necropolis before it was even called Coma and eighteen It was rich farmland since it caught all the moisture off the bag and most of the vegetables for San Francisco were grown. There At another point, it was known mostly for hog farming and at another point it was known for cultivating flowers, meanwhile, a few miles north in San Francisco, proper people were pouring in because of the gold rush, the population. Was booming, and so as the death rate well Certainly, there was an enormous amount of death at that time, and just because there were no, I'd eggs people died of stuffed it. You wouldn't even dying of now San Francisco the cemeteries started to fill up and starting, eighteen. Eighty, seven religious groups and organizations began one by one to buy plots of land south of the city to create new burial ground which eventually covered over to square miles in nineteen.
Before the cemeteries got together and they decided to incorporate these two points, The square miles officially became a town, a cemetery town called Long Dale, which, in nineteen forty one would be renamed Coma and all of this was happening in the context of a much bigger change in american burial practices for a long time, the dad used to be buried in little squares or churchyards on dusty plots. The middle of town graves were all around. It was no big deal municipal bearing grounds the right down town and they were relatively small, crowded places with thrilling nothing much by way of landscape design. They were just all the land surrounding a church. This is keep agnor. Professor of art, show history at the University of Oregon and in his book cemetery He talks about how these tiny plain graveyards were hubs of activity. You might find
or a bricklayer or a carpenter. You, did a cemetery waiting for someone to come along and employ them. Farmers would grow. Their cows and cemeteries, because many people believe that the grass grown in churchyard, sir or burial ground was richer and made for sweeter milk prostitute. Even would sometimes be found in burial ground These we're gonna open public spaces, and towns and cities, many of which didn't have much by way of alternative open public spaces. By the eighteen. Twenty and thirty is a couple. Things happen that changed how burials worked. Firstly, there is a series of outbreaks of disease and cities were hit with waves of typhoid and cholera, yellow fever, and it was just unsanitary to keep the deceased so close to the living. Also, These were growing in downtown real estate was becoming more valuable gradually in the United States.
The lands of the living in the land of the dead began to separate grave sites ended up, far away from the city. This model of a rural burial separate from the city took off. In America, in the eighteen thirties when men Auburn Cemetery opened outside of Cambridge Massachusetts, woman. Auburn was what was Paul: then what is still called a rural cemetery. What that and was it wasn't smack tab in the centre of a town? Also, it was one of the first cemeteries to actually be called a cemetery at all. Firstly, they had been called bearing grounds for burial grounds or churchyards. Cemetery was a greek word, meaning sleeping chamber unjust, word cemetery So romantic and euphemistic death had once been deeply. Mashed in everyday life. Americans had funerals and their front parlors
countered, modest tombstones daily in their town squares. Mt Auburn made burial something removed from normal existence. Rural cemeteries were stately, they looked like they were a world apart. Mt Auburn was, and still is beautiful with em old, grassy hills and manicured hedges. There are statue of weeping angels and then Gypsum Oblast, all connected with me finding walking paths so it was a much more artful land it modeled on the English Guy tradition of picturesquely, escapes as opposed to this. Simply a flat piece of ground with a bunch of stones in a lined up within it. This new style marked the beginning of the rural cemetery movement in America, and it will go and influence the design of public spaces more broadly
because this is at a time when a lot of cities didn't have public parks or botanical, gardens or museums. These cemeteries, then serve does the model for some of our nations. First public parks such as central Park in New York, which followed that picturesque garden approach that was for seen in our cemeteries. It was later picked up for college, campuses, suburban subdivisions, many other applications, the cemeteries and Coma were directly inspired by the Mount Auburn model as well. They were places to go to have picnic some amble around and get away from the smog insert of neighbouring San Francisco if the sick the living was designed for speed and efficiency in business. The city of the dead was instead understood as a kind of quiet, peaceful Arcadia, a kind evocation of Paradise for Heaven on earth, where one would take ones eternal reward, oh and about
eternity thing. That's a very american. Americans a rather distinct practice. Holding to burial in perpetuity, fine burial in perpetuity. In that many other places by burial in perpetuity. He means a plot of land, yours for ever and ever until the end of time, which is different, then say Argentina or France or ITALY, or any number of other countries around the world where families The deceased typically lease a burial plot. It could be for five or ten years to a hundred years, and if the family doesn't maintain that lease, then The remains are dug up or disinterred, and what is left is often Burned the family is given the Just then the plots are used for new burials, and this almost never happens in the United States Americans.
Materials would rather double up on burials or do above On burials than dig up remains, that's just taboo, why it was so strange in the early twentieth century, when almost All of San Francisco dead were dug up and affected to make room for the living which brings us back to the graveyard of coma. What happened in nineteen hundred was that the Board of Supervisors of the County of San Francisco decided that they did not want any expansion of the cemeteries that were already in San Francisco. That's Moreno here again of the coma historical society, so the legislation was that there would be no new burial send San Francisco and that way into effect in nineteen O. One so no new barriers that meant the existing. Materials didn't have a reliable source of revenue, and so the summit
carries, fell into disrepair and became these tiny wastelands for vagabonds Nair dwells and grave robbers, and also they were gross in nineteen fourteen another ordinance kick them out. They pay legislation. That said, not only no new burials, but these cemeteries just look off all. They thought they were disease, written so The city said the bodies have to be. This in turn and moved Nineteen thirty seven into the nineteen forties most of the bodies from San Francisco were dug up and move to coma, roughly one hundred and fifty thousand bodies in total to me, a body with the headstone cost, the family ten dollars, and if there was no money or no next of kin, the bodies were put into mass graves in coma, but like respectful,
because when you think of mass grave, you often think of mass executions, and it was not that kind of process was a much gentler, respectful process. Deceased in the mass graves were blessed and memorialize and accounted for in records and their headstones, where we used as building material. Well, The mass grave headstones ended up along ocean beach. You'll see a lot of headstones out there no way. Yes, they were used to keep from erosion Did you find yourself in one of these two park in the heart of San Francisco? Look at the past stones, lining the trails and the street cutters and you'll see that a lot of them are cemetery headstones, these stones, sometimes faded, fragments of them sometimes completely intact, are tucked all over the city, hiding in plain sight and they The closest contact most San franciscans have with cemeteries. There are only two:
graveyards left in the entire city. Death is a fact of life, most urban dwellers don't see and don't think about, whereas down coma, Maureen confronts her mortality. Every time she looks out her window. Look out on the cemeteries, and I think you know these people are resting in peace, and sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all the things that I have to do. But the day that I wake up, that I don't have anything to do, I'm probably gonna be moving into a cemetery. Most p well aren't sandwiched between two cemeteries and we don't really think about the question of what will happen to our bodies after we die. I asked I stood and very often people are like a little taken aback. Either they haven't thought, about it are they know I haven't nay plants It certainly haven't made plans Chances are you haven't either I have no idea what will happen in my body after I die,
kind of unusual in the course of history? It was indeed the case that, yes, people largely knew where they were buried. Professor Keith Agnor says that, prior to the civil war, Americans, zoomed, dead, end up in their family plots or town churchyards and that their parents and children would be buried there too is no longer the case we move you know, from job to job, from town to town. We frequently in reach our children to go out and explore the world, and we we don't really know where we're going to be ending up, which is why, today. Many be will have opted not to be buried at all cremation has become increasingly popular, into our own time, and this brought with it a number of new bill types crematoria, but also the look Moslems where you have a small box containing earned with ashes, but with cremation
you don't need a connection to one place. Ashes, don't have two stages aid and a column barium or a Moslem. They can be scared, anywhere you ve ever lived or wanted to live. Family and friends live all over the world. They can each have a part of you. And there are these services that you can order, where ashes can be compressed into a diamond and worn around someone's neck or turned into a hand, blown glass paper weight. So there's a kind of break. I think, on going over the course of last hundred years or more in which people were perhaps much more rooted to the land, both in life especially in death by vote two of burial and Knowing where they were going to be buried, then we are now Francisco's nineteenth century residents could never have guessed that they be elected in relocated, miles away from their home town to a city of the dead. There.
Stone, strewn about the parks and beaches of the city of the living. Ninety nine percent invisible was produces week by every treatment, with Lenny Hall, imitates Gerald and me roman Mars, technical production, mixed by Sharif Use, if, with music by Sean Rio. Katy mingle is our senior editor. Kurt coal is the digital director and turn Massa is moving to the Bay area. Social thinks this week. Actually Borman and Mercy Russell at the chapel of the chimes in Oakland. This episode was inspired in part by our friends at K, W in Seattle. They have a new podcast called Terrestrial, where each episode explores a personal question through the lens climate change and the environment. We are the host of the show as a whole episode
What we should do with our bodies when we die in light of our changing landscape, and she features this architect Katrina spade my name's between a spade and end the founder and director of the Urban death project Katrina designed what she calls a re composition centre, a facility where it would be possible to compost multiple human bodies at a time. I realise this is pretty out there for a lot of people. I know the catholic side of my family. Would probably freak, but listen to the way she envisions one of these centres and remember it doesn't exist. Yet. This is just how she imagined it. When you open the doors to the recombination centre. The first thing you see is this three story: concrete form it ends. You can see the top of and wrapping around, that core is a series of ramps that sort of meander to hear the rest of the concept of the recon position centre and some other ideas about the future of death check out the full.
When it comes out next Tuesday that may sixteenth, but for right now you can just go subscribe begin. That show is called terrestrial check it out. We are a project. In one point, seven k a w in San Francisco and produced on radio row in beautiful, downtown, Oakland, California, we often don't think of winter as a time of growth or creation. But if you think about it, it's the perfect time to create your own website. Cooped up you thinkin about being proactive and now square space can help you do it with squares. Based can take your cool ideas, you ve creative content, your services, goods, and you can turn them into a beautiful website in just a few clicks. Does it because there is, do you
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.