Cemetery notes and/or description: The Italian Cemetery is the offspring of La SocietÓ Italiana di Mutua Beneficenza, the oldest continuously existing Italian-American organization in the United States.
Founded in 1858, the function of the SocietÓ was to provide medical care and death benefits to a membership largely made up of Italian immigrants who came to San Francisco during the Gold Rush era. Although burial services had always been a part of the equation, it was not until 1899 that the SocietÓ was able to establish a cemetery of its own. Most of these immigrants lived in San Francisco, but when the city enacted a policy of relocating burial grounds outside its limits, the new Italian Cemetery was set up, along with many others, in the little town of Colma. More than 8,000 bodies were moved to the Italian Cemetery from the Italian section of the old Golden Gate Cemetery (also known as the City Cemetery). While other cemeteries created mass graves for those whose families could not afford to have their loved ones relocated, the Italian Cemetery relocated all 8,000 burials at its own expense.
The first building on the property, completed in 1904, was the Porporato Mausoleum, designed by prolific San Francisco architect John A. Porporato, whose other projects included the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club and the world-famous Saints Peter and Paul Church in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. The purpose of the Porporato Mausoleum was originally to provide a chapel for committal services. It was the first indoor mausoleum in Colma and one of the very first in the entire country. The crypts are faced in beautiful Carrara marble, and the mausoleum is graced with colorful stained glass with floral designs.
Made up largely of Italian Immigrants, the historical North Beach district of San Francisco served as the headquarters of the SocietÓ until 1962, when the SocietÓ relocated to the grounds of the cemetery in Colma. In 1978, the Italian Cemetery was reorganized under the laws of the State of California as an independent non-profit, public-benefit corporation and now serves all faiths and nationalities.