Upon hearing the word “tomb” some might think of Lara Croft or Indiana Jones crawling through a stone-walled, spider-infested room, but there are several unique tombs in California that aren’t as mysterious and have a bit more curb appeal.
While there are thousands of tombs and mausoleums across the Golden State here are five that stand out.
The Joel Parker Whitney Pyramid Mausoleum – Rocklin
Located near the 11th-hole green of the Whitney Oaks Golf Course is a granite pyramid that serves as the tomb for Joel Parker Whitney and other members of the Whitney family.
Built in the mid-1880s, the tomb sits at 15 feet high and 40 feet wide at its base inside of an encircling granite rock wall, The Fort, that Whitney built for his children when they were young. The tomb is the youngest man-made monument on the site.
At the rear of the tomb, just outside the fort, is a large granite rock where several Nisenan mortars are located that date back thousands of years.
The choice of a pyramid as the shape of the tomb was not a random one, as Whitney was interested in pyramidology since a visit to the 1867 Paris Exhibition. Whitney was visiting the exhibition to find investors into Colorado mines and real estate, where he would end up making much of his wealth.
After his death in January 1913 at the age of 78, Whitney was entombed in the pyramid. Over the years, 17 more of his relatives were placed inside the tomb.
Frederick Delger Mausoleum – Oakland
Thought to be Oakland’s first millionaire, Frederick Delger does not look to have wasted a penny on his gothic-style mausoleum at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.
The Fulgenzio Seregni-designed tomb sits along Millionaire’s Row at the cemetery next to the Charles Crocker Mausoleum. The only other mausoleum designed by Seregni on the property is the Colton Mausoleum.
Delger would waste no time earning his fortune after moving from New York to the Bay Area in the early 1860s. By the end of the decade, he had amassed wealth from investing into a shoe and leather goods business and Oakland real estate.
He constructed his estate to accommodate his large family with features such as an aviary, water tower, greenhouse and a honeymoon cottage.
Several members of Delger’s family were also laid to rest inside the mausoleum.
Sahlberg Pyramid – Santa Barbara
Nestled among the headstones of the Santa Barbara Cemetery is the Sahlberg pyramid tomb, where none of its entombed have any obvious connection to Santa Barbara.
August Sahlberg and Thomas Quirk owned the Esperanzo Gold Mine in El Oro, Mexico, and in 1902 they purchased the land where the pyramid would be built.
Before the tomb’s completion in 1903, Sahlberg died at the age of 34. His mother had died in 1897. Both were placed inside of the tomb.
Emma Rigby, a family friend of Sahlberg, was placed in the tomb along with one of Sahlberg’s brothers.
In 1912, Quirk was placed in the tomb. The remaining three spots were for his wife Nellie, their daughter, and a man believed to be her future spouse.
Before the three followed Quirk into the tomb they had to battle to keep their place in the pyramid.
In 1931, a woman named Mary E. Hindry attested that her husband Willis Hindry had the right to be interred in the pyramid as she had his casket outside of the tomb.
The man’s body was placed into the tomb for one year as Hindry was given the time to come up with the documents to prove that her husband belonged in there.
Nellie Quirk heard about the man’s induction into the tomb and feared that if he was allowed to stay in the tomb it would mean her daughter, her possible future spouse and herself would not have a place.
Hindry was not able to get the documents by the one-year deadline and Willis Hindry’s body was removed from the tomb.
Hearst Family Tomb – Colma
It may come as no surprise that one of the wealthiest families in California history has a tomb that puts many others to shame.
The Hearst family tomb, located in the Cypress Lawn Funeral Home and Memorial Park, was commissioned by Phoebe Hearst, wife of George Hearst, in 1896.
The mausoleum was constructed by Albert Schweinfurth as a recreation of the Temple of Athena Nike in the Acropolis and features 16 granite columns.
Buried in the tomb are William Randolph Hearst and his parents George Hearst and Phoebe Apperson Hearst.
The Great Mausoleum – Glendale
Located at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, this massive building hosts the remains of several famous and notable people.
This massive structure’s architecture pays homage to ancient Greece and the Gothic cathedrals of France and England.
The original four-terrace structure was conceived in 1917, and by May of that year construction began on the first terrace.
Things would evolve though as works of art commissioned in Europe would need a large area to be housed. The Memorial terrace was constructed in the style of a European cathedral to house these works.
Construction concluded in 1970 after a bridge was built to connect the original terraces with a series of newer buildings built in 1940.
Those inside the tombs and crypt of the Great Mausoleum include Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson and Clark Gable.