Alma Spreckels and Her Special Crypt

February 25, 2022
San Francisco Hauntings

Did you know that Alma Spreckles and her husband, Adolph, had a special crypt designed and built directly under Rodin’s The Thinker, at the Legion of Honor? Apparently they couldn’t use it because San Francisco law prohibited further burials, but let’s think about it for a minute.

Alma de Bretteville Spreckels painted in 1924 by artist Richard  Hall. In the painting, Spreckels sits in a chair originally designed (and at least partly created) by Queen Marie of Romania as an audience chair for herself. Spreckels obtained the chair in 1922 for an exhibition at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor; she eventually donated both the chair and the painting to the Maryhill Museum of Art, which she played a major role in founding.

The Museum construction destroyed the graves of 1500 poor folks, crushing their remains into “charnel heaps” and bulldozing them out of the way to create this temple to European culture, and THE TWO RICH PEOPLE WHO PAID FOR IT WERE SUPPOSED TO HAVE THEIR OWN DAMN TOMB DOWN THERE?

The Adolph B. and Alma de Bretteville Spreckels Gallery at the Legion of Honor showcasing sculptures of Auguste Rodin


I’ve only found one reference to this crypt - in an SF Weekly article from the 90s - so I don’t know the backstory. It’s not too much of a stretch to think that the Spreckels balked at being buried there once they realized (a) there were a shitload of poors down there or (b) how builders treated the graves. A third, more charitable approach, is that they knew the optics were terrible and had a legal excuse to get out of using it without getting into it. They’re actually buried at Cypress Lawn in Colma.

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