It all started in 1902 when the city of San Francisco, California, passed an ordinance forbidding interment within city limits. So, officials incorporated the land five miles due south of San Francisco to be used as cemeteries.
At the time, politicians said that cemeteries (and, more specifically, dead bodies) spread diseases. In reality, the cost of real estate was rising and they wanted to make room for more living people and their money. The dead wouldn’t be purchasing real estate anytime soon.
Flash forward a little more than a century and Colma, California, is at about 1.5 million souls. I like to think of them as the underground residents, but no matter what you call them, this town is full of surprises.
Cemeteries are big business in Colma. There are seventeen of them, and they take up 73 percent of all the real estate in Colma. Colma is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the city with more dead people than living ones.
Maybe it sounds a little creepy, but Colma is a fantastic little town. And when I say little, I mean tiny. This place is only 2.2 square miles and has a mere 1,400 living residents.
With so many places dedicated to burying loved ones, land is at a premium. An acre of land will cost you upwards of two million dollars.
Pay Your Respects
Some pretty famous folks are permanent residents of Colma. Wyatt Earp’s ashes are buried at Hills of Eternity Cemetery, Joe DiMaggio is at Holy Cross Cemetery, and Tina Turner’s dog is buried with one of her fur coats at Pet’s Rest Cemetery.
Colma is a town like no other. But as for the residents who live above ground, the Spanish-Mediterranean architecture is beautiful, and it’s always a pleasure working on the roofs in this area.
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