Sunday, April 12, 2015

Fulgenzio Seregni monuments at Mountain View Cemetery

Seregni family mausoleums for Delger, Colton and Main (photos by Michael Colbruno)

Some of Mountain View Cemetery's most iconic structures were designed by Italian immigrant Fulgenzio Seregni who is almost forgotten to time. Famous architects like A. Page Brown, who designed the Crocker Family Mausoleum, are far better known to architecture and history buffs, but the most photographed structures at the cemetery are works of Seregni.

Fulgenzio was born, raised and educated in Milan, Italy. He worked for seven years for a Russian prince from whom he learned marble cutting. In 1851 he immigrated to New York City. After traveling across the Isthmus of Panama in 1858, he settled in San Francisco where he taught penmanship, drawing, and writing Pacific Business College for the next 18 years. He then established a marble business in San Francisco with business partner Ettore Bernieri, which produced some of the finest statuary on the West Coast. 

Seregni designs, Kohl mausoleum at Cypress Lawn, St. Brigit's alter and his losing design for a monument
Seregni & Bernieri had studios in San Francisco and Carrara, Italy. Their work included the alter for Archbishop Riordan at Holy Cross Church in San Francisco, the alter at St. Brigit Church in San Francisoco, the marble alter at the Memorial Church at Stanford University and the pedestal for the Goethe-Schiller monument in Golden Gate Park. On the East Coast, he designed monuments for Jay Gould, Thomas Scott, Judge Asa Parker, Rhode Island Governor Seth Pedelford, as well as the Firemen's Monument. On the West Coast, he designed monuments honoring Louis Strauss, Governor  Henry Huntly Haight, San Francisco Mayor Thomas Selby and Nevada Senator William Sharon.

Seregni & Bernieri were finalists for the design of a monument honoring great Californians which now sits between the San Francisco Library and Asian Art Museum. The monument designs commemorated the transition of California from the Spanish to the Americans, and featured James Lick, John Fremont, General John Sutter and Commodore John Sloat. The firm submitted two proposals, but they lost out to a design by Frank Happersberger.

A.K.P. Harmon's monument at Mountain View Cemetery
The Colton mausoleum, which is guarded by two Greek sphinxes, was designed by Seregni in the basic Greek Revival Temple style with Corinthian columns and pilasters. Although sphinxes and Greek Revival Temples are considered pagan architectural forms they continue to be among the most popular types of funerary architecture.

According to historian Doug Keister, Mrs. David D. Colton had this mausoleum built for her husband following his death in 1878. As a statement of her continuing grief, she had the mausoleum built in a location that would be plainly visible from her Nob Hill residence across the bay in San Francisco.

Frederick William Delger and his family rest in and around a grand Gothic Revival aediculum (or small mausoleum), which sits right next door to Charles Crocker on Mountain View Cemetery's Millionaire's Row. Delger, who is considered Oakland's first millionaire, made his fortune in real estate and the retail shoe business. At one time he had three streets in Oakland named after him, Frederick St., William St. and Delger St.

The Monteverde designed angel in Rome (left) and Seregni knockoff at Mountain View (right)
The Crocker and Schmidt angels have become the unofficial icons of Mountain View Cemetery. These angels were likely known to Seregni from angels that he had seen at a cemetery in Carrara, Italy designed by Giulio Monteverde (1837-1917). The figure is known as the Angel of the night, with the most famous version at the grave of Primo Zonca at the Verano Monumental Cemetery in Rome. Other similar statues exist in cemeteries in Genoa and Madrid.

These melancholic androgynous angels, sitting on a grave with, their wings folded back and looking to the sky, represent an untimely death.  There is a drawing of in the cemetery files of a sketch of the angel, which hints that it may have been copied from another monument. Albert Schmidt, a prominent real estate developer, erected this angel in memory of his daughter who died young from a bout with acute appendicitis. Henry Crocker ran successful stationery and book-binding businesses in Sacramento and San Francisco.

Other Seregni & Bernieri monuments at Mountain View Cemetery are those designed for the families of A.K.P. Harmon and James Latham. The angel at the top of the Latham monument glances downward awaiting the arrival of the departed.

Sources: San Francisco Call; Master Hands in the Affairs of the Pacific Coast; Mountain View Cemetery by Dennis Evanosky; OaklandWiki