The Columbarium finally became officially recognized as a landmark in October of 1999, under caretaker Emmitt Watson. Watson still grants personal tours and stories today. Watson said of the building, This is the saddest place in the world. But [the visitors] look happy.” The Columbarium is known not only for its amount of interred remains, but also its true San Francisco character – during the tour Watson shows urns made to look like giant baseballs and even one that resembles the head of Elvis Presley. In fact, a company here in San Francisco called “Creative Cremains” began for this very purpose – bizarre novelty urns.

Watson began working at the Columbarium after painting the building for a construction job. One of the then owners was so impressed with his work ethic that they hired him. Watson has been there ever since, now with the title of caretaker.

“I thought this was about the spookiest place I ever saw in my life. It was all dark, too. First thing I decided was to change the colors. I painted colors that represented life because -- most people don't think about this, but the dead do not walk in here. It's the living that come to visit.[1]



[1] Miller, David Ian. “Finding My Religion: San Francisco Columbarium Warmed By Emmitt Watson’s Presence.” January 23, 2006.