It was a popular place for family outings, Laurel Hill, with its rambling pathways, grassy valleys and slopes,
flowers, woods alive with warblers, and hidden springs. By 1900, when city officials halted further burials,
38,000 of San Francisco's past figures and founders lay in its grounds, including Hugh H. Toland,
one of UCSF's founding fathers.
But the land became too valuable to remain a mere resting place, situated as it was between a pulsing young
port city and the younger, still growing residential district of the Richmond. Real estate developers were
offering top prices to city administrators who, in 1912, evicted all dead from the premises. The three
adjoining cemeteries - the Catholic, Masonic and Odd Fellows - moved on without a fuss, but the fight to
conserve Laurel Hill's pioneers for posterity went on for another 30 years.
Finally, in the 1940s, the movement to create a Pioneer Memorial Park was quelled for good. All remains
were unearthed and removed -- mostly southward to Colma's Cypress Lawns.
Headstones grand and small were recycled into sculptor's blocks, gutters for Buena Vista Park and
breakwaters along the Marina shores.
By the end of World War II, Laurel Hill had been subdivided for housing
except for a parcel on Presidio Avenue between California and Bush Streets. The City
planned to build a school here, but plans changed and The City sold the property
to Fireman's Fund Insurance Company in 1953.
Fireman's Fund built an office complex
in the popular International-Suburban-Office-Park school of architecture, sort of a
Crown Zellerbach building taking a nap on the grass, and
occupied it in 1957.
When Fireman's Fund fled for the suburbs in 1985, they left their building behind,
and it was purchased by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF),
one of the world's leading biomedical research and education institutions.