San Francisco’s elevated-freeway approach to the Golden Gate Bridge, called “Doyle Drive,” winds its way through The Presidio, a former Army base, decommissioned in 1994.
Doyle Drive dates back to the original construction of the bridge in the mid 1930s. Now seismically unfit, the new “Presidio Parkway” is currently under construction to replace it.
Nestled in the dark and dank shadow of this teeming construction site is the Presidio Pet Cemetery.
Originally started in the 1950s, there are no actual military records of the site being designated as a pet cemetery, but it’s become the final resting place to hundreds of animals. It was officially closed to interments in 1963, but many have clandestinely buried their pets here over the years.
Situated directly beneath the new freeway flyover construction, the contractor temporarily built a low roof over this tiny necropolis to protect it from falling debris. This covering created a surreally gloomy, underground graveyard. It’s like a cemetery in a subway tunnel . . . with names like Blinky and Wiggles on the tombstones. I’ve never experienced anything like it.
In January 2011 I was shooting the Headlands with Joe, Riki and Steve on a typically cold, foggy San Francisco winter night. After getting fogged out and making a wrong turn, we ended up here totally by accident. Even late at night, loaded dump trucks were lumbering past every few minutes, forcing us to work discretely. The traffic on the freeway above us roared and banged over the expansion joints, echoing like gunshots off the overpasses. Working in this small space with several other photographers was difficult, so I came back by myself a few nights later, spending several hours, soaking-in this spooky and staggeringly strange place.
Since shooting this work, the construction has sped along and the area around this site looks quite different. The roof over the cemetery has been removed and this Phase 1 section of roadway opened in 2012. This set concludes with a few images shot post-roof. The entire Presidio Parkway project is scheduled to be finished in 2015.