Evergreen Cemetery, Los Angeles

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Evergreen Memorial Park & Crematory
Breed monument Evergreen Cemetery Los Angeles.jpg
Breed family monument and Japanese tombstones
Established 1877 (1877)
Location 204 N. Evergreen Avenue
Los Angeles, California
Coordinates 34°02′25″N 118°11′52″W / 34.0402899°N 118.1978499°W / 34.0402899; -118.1978499Coordinates: 34°02′25″N 118°11′52″W / 34.0402899°N 118.1978499°W / 34.0402899; -118.1978499[1]
Type Private
Size 67 acres (27 ha)
No. of graves >300,000
Find a Grave Evergreen Memorial Park & Crematory
The Political Graveyard Evergreen Memorial Park & Crematory

Evergreen Memorial Park & Crematory is a cemetery in the East Side neighborhood of Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, California.

Evergreen has several prominent individuals of historical Southern California on its grounds. Many pioneers are interred here, names such as Bixby, Coulter, Hollenbeck, Lankershim, Van Nuys, and Workman.[2] There are politicians, notably former Mayors of Los Angeles. The Garden of the Pines section of the cemetery is a memorial to Japanese Issei pioneers.


Established on August 23, 1877, Evergreen is the oldest, and one of the largest, extant cemeteries in the city with over 300,000 interments.[3] The section near 1st and Lorena streets was at one time a potter's field.

Evergreen is notable for never having banned African-Americans from being buried at the cemetery and has sections for Armenians, Japanese, early white settlers, and a large section of Mexican graves.[4]

Potter's Field[edit]

In return for a zoning variance to allow the cemetery, the founders of Evergreen gave the City of Los Angeles a 9-acre (36,000 m2) parcel of the proposed cemetery in 1877 for use as an indigent graveyard, often referred as a "Potter's field."[5] Ownership of the indigent cemetery passed from the City to the County of Los Angeles in 1917. At the time, it was clear the potter's field would have burial space for only a few more years. By 1924, burial space in the potter's field was exhausted and the county built a crematorium at the site, on the corner of Lorena and 1st streets, and began to cremate its indigent deceased.[6]

Evergreen Cemetery purchased most of the 9-acre (36,000 m2) potter's field from the county in 1964. It then prepared the newly recovered parcel for burials by covering it with 8 feet (2.4 m) of compacted soil. Only the crematorium was retained by the county. In 2007, the cremated remains of over 1700 unclaimed bodies were buried in the cemetery.[4]

Chinese in the Potters Field[edit]

Until the Civil Rights era, racism barred the Chinese from burying their dead in most cemeteries including Evergreen. Before 1922 and the founding of the Chinese Cemetery, the only place that allowed burial of Chinese persons was the city's potter's field. Unlike white indigents, who were buried at no charge, the Chinese had to pay US$10 (HK$78) to be interred.[7][6]

The Chinese community was allowed to utilize a corner of the potter's field and soon after erected a shrine in September 1888. Evergreen left the shrine in place when it purchased the potter's field from the county in 1964 and let it fall into disrepair over the years. The shrine and the land under it were eventually purchased by the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California in 1992 and restored soon after. It is now a registered historic monument. [5]

By the time the county took ownership of the potter's field in 1917, it was clear it was running out of space. The Chinese community responded by purchasing land and opening the Chinese Cemetery. The county used the founding of the Chinese Cemetery as an opportunity to extend the useful life of the potter's field. Norman Martin, Superintendent for the County Department of Charities, wrote a letter to Chan Kai Sing, Secretary of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. In the letter, dated June 19, 1923, Martin wrote:

"Recently your people established a new Chinese cemetery on East 1st Street, and it would be highly desirable if the bodies buried in the county cemetery could be transferred to your new location," he said.[7]

The letter said there were 902 Chinese buried at the site. Despite acknowledging that each grave cost the Chinese US$10, Martin said he wanted the chamber to move the remains to the Chinese Cemetery and offered $2 per body as compensation. "The idea being that you would move all of the bodies as fast as practicable,"[7]

During the summer of 2005, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Metro construction workers widening First Street for the LACMTA Gold Line light rail extension uncovered the skeletal remains of 174 people buried near the south side of the Los Angeles County Crematorium, adjacent to Evergreen Cemetery.[8][9] Archaeologists working for the agency determined that the excavation site was likely the Chinese section of the potter's field. The majority of the remains were Asian males found along with rice bowls, jade bracelets, Chinese burial bricks, Asian coins and opium pipes.[10][11][12] The remains will be buried inside Evergreen Cemetery, potentially near the Chinese Shrine. A memorial to those forgotten souls was dedicated on March 7, 2010.[6][13]

Notable interments[edit]


  • Eddie Anderson (1905–1977), comedic actor, played Rochester, Jack Benny's valet





  • Mary Foy (1862–1962), first female head librarian of the Los Angeles Public Library














  • Hugo Zacchini (1898–1975) Daredevil, "human cannonball", artist
  • Otto J. Zahn (1871–1965), Los Angeles City Council member


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Evergreen Cemetery, Los Angeles
  2. ^ a b Smith, Doug and Menezes, Ryan (November 28, 2014) "Evergreen Cemetery is awash in history, and drowning in blight" Los Angeles Times
  3. ^ Benitez, Tomas (2004) "East L.A.: Past and Present" PBS American Family
  4. ^ a b Ehrenreich, Ben (1 November 2010). "The End. - Features". Los Angeles Magazine. Archived from the original on May 13, 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2011.
  5. ^ a b 19th Century Chinese Memorial Shrine Preservation Project, Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, retrieved 2010-09-05
  6. ^ a b c Ni, Ching-Ching (March 9, 2010), The site where Chinese laborers were interred, their graves later forgotten, gets a memorial, Los Angeles Times, retrieved 2010-09-05
  7. ^ a b c Bringing up the dead, The Standard, archived from the original on October 9, 2012, retrieved 2010-09-05
  8. ^ Ni, Ching-Ching (July 25, 2010). "Irvin R. Lai dies at 83; Chinese American community leader in Los Angeles". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  9. ^ Cart, Julie (September 5, 2010). "Chinese laborers finally rest in peace". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  10. ^ Pierson, David (January 24, 2008). "Custody dispute over history". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  11. ^ Pierson, David (March 15, 2006). "Reminders of Bigotry Unearthed". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  12. ^ Pierson, David (March 18, 2006). "Probe Sought in Discovery of Old Graves". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  13. ^ NGUYEN, DAISY (March 8, 2010), Remains of early Chinese immigrants unearthed in LA mass grave to be reburied, Los Angeles Times
  14. ^ Making Black Los Angeles
  15. ^ Dark Side of Fortune

External links[edit]