As recently as two years ago, Evergreen Memorial Park was sliding ever so gently into disrepair. The past two years haven't been kind to the historic cemetery. With zombie sinkholes, wild coyotes, abandoned shopping carts and angel monuments missing arms and even heads, Evergreen has become a symbol of L.A.'s inability or unwillingness to preserve its history. But even with the decay, the cemetery is worth touring on foot, if for no other reason than that every time you visit the 60-acre, 300,000-plot cemetery, you'll discover something new and wonderful.
Located in Boyle Heights and established in 1877, Evergreen Memorial Park and Crematory is Los Angeles’ oldest cemetery. It is the final resting place for not just the “founding fathers” of Los Angeles, and also was the only cemetery in California where Chinese immigrants could bury their dead (until the 1920s). While that sounds great, the Chinese immigrants were buried in the local potter's field, and in the 1950s a wall was placed over their shrines; it was only rediscovered during the building of the Gold Line. The unearthed remains were then reburied in Evergreen.
Evergreen is the only cemetery in Los Angeles to never ban African-American burials, so many of the black actors of the 1920s and ’30s are buried in the North Hill section of the park.
Most famously, Evergreen has an entire section for the Japanese-Americans of the 442 Regimental Combat Unit, who fought for the United States in World War II. Thanks to their progeny, this section of the cemetery — where many of the tombstones have Japanese characters on one side and English on the other — is the best maintained.
Other notable things to look for are the children's graveyard from the late 1800s; the 400 carnies — including the actual fat lady Emily Bailey — who are buried here; and the first Los Angeles potter's field, which houses thousands of cremated bodies, each one marked only with the mass grave marker that was the year of their death.
Oh, and someone left the door to the first crematorium in Los Angeles open, so we may have snapped a few photos of the crematorium, including a fallen chandelier and gurneys for the dead.