The original Chapel of the Chimes was completed in 1909.The facility was rebuilt and expanded in 1928 based on the design of Julia Morgan, a legend of California architecture and designer of the landmark Hearst Castle. Today, the facility is considered one of the Bay Area’s most beautiful buildings, an “architectural gem.”
The Lifemark Group’s beautiful Chapel of the Chimes facility in Oakland is one of the most desired locations in California for cremation services and ceremonies of all kinds. It is one of the oldest cremation and columbarium facilities in the state. In fact, they established the modern method for cremation when they opened the first electric crematorium in the world.
The original structure, the California Crematorium and Columbarium, was quite small. In 1911, a young visionary named Lawrence F. Moore was hired to manage the business and engineer its growth.
After his hiring, Moore developed a vision for a beautiful, eloquent columbarium, which he felt would be embraced by the public and serve as a base for growth. In 1926, he took the step that would insure the future of his business when he commissioned prominent Berkeley architect Julia Morgan to translate his vision into reality and design an expanded facility.
Following Moore’s lead, Julia Morgan conceived the new cremation facility as a haven of peace and tranquility. From this vision, she designed an innovative array of gardens, cloisters, alcoves, stairwells, fountains and chapels that rose toward vaulted ceilings and were illuminated by soothing natural light.
On Memorial Day in 1928, her striking columbarium and chapel project was dedicated as “Chapel of the Chimes”—a name derived from a set of chimes or “carillons” installed in its tower. Morgan was retained to consult on new additions as the facility grew in popularity and expanded to an area covering one-and-a-half city blocks. Some authorities consider Chapel of the Chimes to be her masterwork.
Among the notable features of her work for Chapel of the Chimes:
- Chapel of the Chimes - the original chapel and columbarium structure was so impressive that it became the designation for all that would evolve on this site. The set of chimes carillons that was installed in its tower for many years played throughout the neighborhood.
- The Frances Willard Columbarium - the first addition to the original building was named for an early leader of women’s rights and one of the first women to publicly endorse cremation.
- The Sanctuary - a chapel with ornamental metal work was created by the Allied Arts Guild of Menlo Park.
- The Julia Morgan Chapel - originally called the Middle Chapel, it was renamed in 1999 in tribute to the architect. Its striking Romanesque appearance and stained glass ceiling are stunningly beautiful.
- Stained Glass Ceilings - crafted by Marian Simpson, the ceilings created the feeling of a medieval monastery in the chapel structure.
- Painted Inscriptions – taken mainly from early Jewish and Christian religious writings, these inscriptions were the handiwork of Doris Day, a painter who traveled with Julia Morgan to Europe to purchase artifacts for the additions.
Other prominent architects contributed to the structure over the years, including Aaron Green, an associate of Frank Lloyd Wright who integrated mausoleum areas into the facility.
Lawrence Moore remained as Chapel of the Chimes’ manager from his hiring in 1911 until his retirement in 1965. During that time, he became one of the most respected authorities on cremation in the world.
In late 1999, the City of Oakland designated Chapel of the Chimes as a Distinguished Landmark.
Women In Architecture Forum: Chapel of the Chimes Tour
Time: 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Location: Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland.
Cost: None; this forum is open to all. Please RSVP.
1.5 CES LUs
For more information: 510/464-3600