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After the United States Marine Hospital at the Presidio was built in 1875, the hillside behind the new institution became a burial ground for sailors who could not be returned home. This cemetery was used from 1881-1912, with over 600 interments including marines and sailors from 30 different states and 43 different countries. In 2011 the Presidio restored the area to its pre-European ecosystem, a dune habitat planted with native grasses and flowers, including the endangered San Francisco Lessingia, which attracts bees, birds, reptiles, and butterflies to the graveyard, which features a boardwalk and overlook which is connected to the rest of the Presidio by a trail. Interpretive signs and a stone plaque honor those buried at the Marine Cemetery Vista.


  • Marine Cemetery Vista Memorial (image from Cemetery Travel)
  • The Marine Cemetery Vista (image from National Parks Service, Presidio)
  • The former Marine Hospital, now an apartment building, as seen from the cemetery grounds (image from National Parks Service, Presidio)
  • Former Marine Hospital (image from Cemetery Travel)
  • Cemetery marker (image from National Parks Service, Presidio)

Most of the men interned here were in their 20s and 30s and died of tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases. Other deaths were caused by scurvy, leprosy, malaria, syphilis, cancer, cirrhosis, diabetes, heart disease, pneumonia, and gunshot wounds. In addition to the sailors and marines, the cemetery also includes the remains of a hospital attendant, nurse, gardener, and one of the doctors' stillborn son. The earliest burials were in redwood coffins provided by the hospital, which later built a crematory and buried the ashes of the deceased in bronze urns. The headstones were of whitewashed wood but remained intact until at least 1930.

In 1902, the city of San Francisco passed a law against burials within the city limits. The Marine Cemetery, located in the Presidio, was technically not affected by the law, but in 1912 all U. S. Marine hospitals became Public Health Service Hospitals. The marine burial ground at the Presidio was no longer used and fell into disrepair by the 1930s. During 1952 construction to expand the hospital, the cemetery was to be moved to make way for a dump (Landfill 8), consisting of 16 feet of construction debris and toxic materials. The Veterans Administration took over the hospital and covered the graveyard and the dump above it with a parking lot in 1969. 

President Ronald Reagan decommissioned the hospital in 1981, and the National Park Service took over the Presidio from the U. S. Army in 1989. During the transfer, a U. S. Army Corps of Engineers archaeological team discovered that the remains had never been removed and, that under the debris of Landfill 8, the Marine Cemetery was still in place -though some of the graves had been disturbed by the placement of the landfill.

Rather than disturb the graves further, in 2011 the Presidio restored the area to its pre-European ecosystem, a dune habitat planted with native grasses and flowers, including the endangered San Francisco Lessingia, which attracts bees, birds, reptiles, and butterflies to the graveyard, which features a boardwalk and overlook and is connected to the rest of the Presidio by a trail. Interpretive signs and a stone plaque honor those buried at the Marine Cemetery Vista.

Marker Inscription:
UNITED STATES MARINE HOSPITAL CEMETERY
1881-1912
HOME IS THE SAILOR, HOME FROM THE SEA. - A.E. HOUSEMAN
IN MEMORY OF THE MERCHANT MARINERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD WHO REST HERE

Marine Cemetery Vista. Presidio. Accessed April 12, 2017. http://www.presidio.gov/places/marine-cemetery-vista.

Fimrite, Peter. In Presidio, life begins anew atop old cemetery. SF Gate. October 09, 2010. Accessed April 12, 2017.

Cemetery of the Week #83: United States Marine Hospital Cemetery. Cemetery Travel. Accessed April 12, 2017. https://cemeterytravel.com/2012/11/14/cemetery-of-the-week-83-united-states-marine-hospital-cemetery....