Evergreen Cemetery (Los Angeles)

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Evergreen Memorial Park & Crematory
Breed monument Evergreen Cemetery Los Angeles.jpg
Breed family monument and Japanese tombstones
Established1877 (1877)
204 N. Evergreen Avenue
Los Angeles, California
Coordinates34°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]
Size67 acres (27 ha)
No. of graves>300,000
Find a GraveEvergreen Memorial Park & Crematory
The Political GraveyardEvergreen 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. It has sections for Armenians, Japanese, and early white settlers, and a large section of Mexican graves.[4]


Although Evergreen had established burial sites for different ethnicities, they were still segregated from one another. First-generation Japanese, called Issei, had established a burial site on the grounds. In 1949, a memorial for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was incorporated and remembered for the Japanese-American soldiers who had fallen during World War II. Every year during the Obon festival, families gather to keep up their relatives' tombstones and to visit the spirits.[5]

Biddy Mason, nurse and philanthropist, was one of the well known figures to be buried at the cemetery, in 1891. There is a section called the “Showmen’s Rest” in which 400 carnival workers and circus performers are buried by a memorial that is decorated with a lion. It was established by the Pacific Coast Showmen’s Association in 1922. One presumed serial killer, Bertha Bielstein, at one time lay in Evergreen Cemetery; however she was buried under another name, Olga Miller. Bielstein came from an upper middle class family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She was suspected of killing her parents in their home and moving to Los Angeles after escaping from a mental institution. Later her identity was confirmed and her body was relocated back east.[6]

Potter's field[edit]

In return for a zoning variance to permit 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."[7] 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.[8]

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 potter's field[edit]

Until the Civil Rights era, racism barred the Chinese from burying their dead in most cemeteries, including Evergreen. 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.[9][8]

The Chinese community was allowed to utilize a corner of the potter's field and soon after, in September of 1888, erected a shrine. 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. [7]

By the time the county took ownership of the potter's field in 1917, it was clear it was running out of space, so the Chinese community responded by purchasing land and in 1922 opening the Chinese Cemetery. The county saw this as an opportunity to extend the useful life of the potter's field. Norman Martin, Superintendent for the County Department of Charities, wrote to Chan Kai Sing, Secretary of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. In a letter, dated June 19, 1923, he 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."[9]

Despite acknowledging there were 902 Chinese buried at the site, and that each grave had cost the Chinese US$10, Martin wanted the remains moved to the new cemetery and offered $2 per body as compensation, "The idea being that you would move all of the bodies as fast as practicable."[9]

During the summer of 2005, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Metro construction workers widening First Street for the Metro L 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.[10][11] 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.[12][13][14] The remains were buried inside Evergreen Cemetery, near the Chinese Shrine, and a memorial was dedicated on March 7, 2010.[8][15]

Memorial Day[edit]

Since 1897, Evergreen has held festivities every Memorial Day. Veterans, activist groups and families enter the cemetery grounds. Military organizations are stationed at different places as the Veterans Drum Corps lead the way from the streets,[16] and Medal of Honor wreaths are distributed to the gravesites. Sometimes guest speakers are invited to make speeches.[17]

Jogging track[edit]

With only a few open areas in Boyle Heights, the Evergreen Jogging Path Coalition worked with city officials to bring together a fitness area to improve local health. In 2003, a 1.4 mile jogging track was completed, encircling the cemetery.[18] The track has exercise stations, shade, and benches so people from around the metro area can exercise regularly. as part of the Eastside Access Project which assists in building easier paths to the metro stations and accessible tracks for fitness.[19] The path was dedicated in the memory of local activist, Lloyd Monserratt.[20][21]

In 2016 it received new additions and updated facilities.[22]

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. ^ "Evergreen Cemetery". The Forum. Los Angeles Conservancy. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  6. ^ Meares, Hadley (August 30, 2013). "Evergreen Cemetery: Snapshots of a Forever Changing Boyle Heights". KCET. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  7. ^ a b 19th Century Chinese Memorial Shrine Preservation Project, Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, retrieved 2010-09-05
  8. ^ a b c Ni, Ching-Ching (March 9, 2010). "The site where Chinese laborers were interred, their graves later forgotten, gets a memorial". LA Times. Archived from the original on August 12, 2010. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c Bringing up the dead, The Standard, archived from the original on October 9, 2012, retrieved 2010-09-05
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Cart, Julie (September 5, 2010). "Chinese laborers finally rest in peace". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  12. ^ Pierson, David (January 24, 2008). "Custody dispute over history". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  13. ^ Pierson, David (March 15, 2006). "Reminders of Bigotry Unearthed". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  14. ^ Pierson, David (March 18, 2006). "Probe Sought in Discovery of Old Graves". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  15. ^ NguyenN, Daisy (March 8, 2010), "Remains of early Chinese immigrants unearthed in L.A. mass grave to be reburied", Los Angeles Times[dead link]
  16. ^ "KCET". 2013-08-30.
  17. ^ "Memorial Day Services Set for Evergreen Cemetery". Rafu Shimpo. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  18. ^ "LA's famous graveyard running path and other fitness gems". 89.3 KPCC. 2016-09-26.
  19. ^ "Evergreen Cemetery Jogging Path (Boyle Heights)". Prevention Institute. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  20. ^ "Evergreen Cemetery jogging path ~ Boyle Heights". LA Eastside. 2009-01-30. Retrieved 2018-01-08. Evergreen Jogging path, Dedicated to Lloyd Monserratt: Nick Pacheco, Dedicated June 26, 2003; José Huizar, Councilmember 14th District, Rededicated January 12, 2008; Thanks to Public Works, Bureau of Street Services
  21. ^ Lerner, Gabriel (2009-10-12). "Estos son los sonidos del Este de Los Angeles". Hispanic LA (in Spanish).
  22. ^ "Jog of the dead: Eastside getting another cemetery jogging path". Curbed Los Angeles. 2016-09-26.
  23. ^ Making Black Los Angeles
  24. ^ Dark Side of Fortune

External links[edit]