Does Columbarium Have Mysterious Connections
The Columbarium is located on Lorraine
By Jonathan Farrell
Almost hidden away between busy Geary Boulevard and Anza
Street is a cul de sac, Loraine Court, which is the address
for a neo-classical building called the Columbarium, whose
charm and mystery beckon to another place and time.
One historical researcher, Richard Slezak, believes the
Columbarium could have a hidden link to Stonehenge. But
how could a mausoleum that was once part of a 167-acre cemetery
have some mysterious connection to a famous, ancient site
Slezak made a presentation, featuring his hypothesis, to
members of the San Francisco History Association at their
May 24 meeting at the Mission Dolores School's auditorium.
The auditorium quickly filled with more than 50 curious
people, who wanted to know more about a possible connection
According to Slezak, the two-story circular building completed
in 1898 "has held tight secret meanings behind the
names of the 16 rooms" inside. The rooms point to the
astronomical, mythological and storytelling elements of
"When you compare the floor plan of the building to
the star chart, the alignment is dramatic. The room (alignment)
appears in the floor plan as it does in the sky-constellation,"
"The architect Bernard J. Cahill and the builders
were trying to define a circle in the sky," he said.
Slezak wonders if the circle was based upon something galactic
or ecliptic? Most of Slezak's pondering centers upon the
mythological and storytelling elements found in the names
of the 16 rooms - eight on each of two floors.
Names such as Auster, Notus and Zephyrus are part of Greek
and Roman mythology.
"Why did the architect and builder choose these names?"
The researcher admitted that his research of Cahill's writings
and logs at the Bancroft Library in Berkeley was unable
to find any reference to secret meanings or significance
behind the names and positions of the rooms.
Slezak, who specializes in the history of cemeteries, speculates
that some hidden meaning lies within the Columbarium, mostly
because it was built by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
"The Odd Fellows were very similar to the fraternal
order of Masons and they have been known as a secretive
society," Slezak said.
Based on this reasoning, "it must have some other
meaning to it," Slezak told the audience. Yet, to the
audience's disappointment, Slezak offered few facts to back
According to Bill Boyd, who serves as membership manager
for one of the largest branches of the Odd Fellows in the
United Kingdom, the Manchester Unity of the Independent
Order of Odd Fellows, there is no known connection between
the Odd Fellows order and Stonehenge.
"I have never heard of any connection between Stonehenge
in Whiltshire, England and the Odd Fellows," he said.
"Stonehenge is more of an ancient monument associated
with Druid activities and rituals. I appreciate the pillars
which (upon looking at photos of the Columbarium) could
be influenced by the standing stones, but that is as far
as my architecturally-untrained eye will take me,"
Boyd also mentioned that the Odd Fellows in the U.K. has
had "no jurisdiction in North America since 1834."
Apparently the Odd Fellows trace their roots back to the
18th century, but, according to legend, can be linked even
farther back to the 11th and 12th centuries. That is when
a fraternal band of soldiers and knights established a lodge
of honor in London by Knight Jean de Neuville from France.
Similar to the Masons, the order of Odd Fellows also holds
legends that can link their heritage even farther back to
the days of chivalrous knights.
They claim that such orders or fraternal bands existed
in Biblical times - from 500 years B.C. The fraternity was
brought into Europe via the Roman army, which conquered
Europe and moved into Britain.
Slezak was a little thin with his evidence linking the
Richmond District burial chamber, which has some of the
city's most famous residents interned there, with Stonehenge
- other than the fact that both structures are related to
the reading of the stars.
Rooms in the Columbarium with names like Argo and Perseus
refer to the myths and stories that speak of a hero. The
hero could have been on a quest to find a treasure (such
as Jason and his crew on the ship Argo, which was sent to
obtain the Golden Fleece) or to rescue the maiden of a kingdom
(as in the story of Perseus and his adventure to save Andromeda).
Emmitt Watson, a groundskeeper who has been giving tours
while maintaining and restoring the Columbarium for more
than 25 years, said, "I too think it is a bit of a
stretch to say the Columbarium is linked to Stonehenge.
But there are hidden meanings, which I find difficult to
"People in ancient times used the stars for direction,
maybe that is why Richard thinks there is a connection to
Watson believes the Odd Fellows were simply trying to say
something universal about all people to all people with
the design of the building.
"We all have a direction in life," he said. "This
is the reason for the north, south, east and west alignments."
Watson also noted the columns in each of the eight rooms
on each floor contain some reference to God.
"No evil must enter," Watson said. "Only
safe passage for the souls that are remembered within this