Construction began on this splendid mausoleum in 1878 when the then very wealthy Mary Hopkins wished to provide a suitable resting place for her recently deceased husband Mark Hopkins.
Mark Hopkins had operated first a grocery store and then a hardware store in Sacramento in the 1850's and became a founding partner of the Central Pacific Railroad, a visionary undertaking to build the first crossing of the continent by rail. One of the legendary Big Four, he served as Treasurer of the Central Pacific Railroad throughout its expansion until his death at sixty-five.
A full year and a half was required to erect this mausoleum, with workman constructing around the clock to finish it. A special spur rail line was laid to transport the tons of granite from the depot to the cemetery and along a cemetery pathway to the building site. A framework was erected with a moving hoist. The contractor was Griffith Company of Penryn, California, who traveled to the Rocky Mountains to mine the red granite. The Rhukala Co. of Sacramento later took over the project.
There are over 350 tons of Rocky Mountain Red Granite and many tons of gray granite from a quarry near Donner Lake, the highest point of the Central Pacific Railroad's construction in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The red stone came from a quarry near the highest point of the Union Pacific Railroad's crossing of the Rocky Mountains. It was selected by Mrs. Hopkins because Mr. Hopkins had admired it on his first trip east on the transcontinental railroad. The walkway around the vault is comprised of three kinds of granite - red, gray and Penryn Black. The interior is said to be of polished white Italian marble. All together, there are probably well in excess of 900,000 pounds of stone in the structure, and there is a base of over six feet of solid concrete.
The tomb was built to accommodate sixteen caskets, there being eight marble grottos on either end of the building; however, there are only four internments recorded, and one of those is in question. Mark Hopkins and his brother Moses are on the west side, and his brother Ezra and nephew Samuel are on the east. Samuel died at sea on the way home from the Orient. Those who die at sea are usually buried at sea, but his name is carved into the door on the southeast side of the vault.