“Evergreen Cemetery: Priorities in Cemetery Landscape Management”
Evergreen Cemetery in Santa Cruz, California, presents a challenging landscape. As a Victorian garden landscape established in 1858, Evergreen Cemetery is divided into approximately six defined culturally significant burial sections, and is typical of early California cemeteries. These sections represent Chinese graves sprinkled in a hillside adjacent to fenced-in plots of freemasons and Civil War veterans that are all perpendicular to an extensively terraced area of distinguished Santa Cruzans that all correspond to a period of significance between 1880 to 1920.
With a cultural landscape that is rich in Santa Cruz history, the physical topography offers the biggest challenges for Evergreen in managing it. The steep hillside is heavily vegetated by both an ivy groundcover that camouflages and encroaches on stone and wood headstones in addition to redwood trees that tower over shading burial plots, creating a microclimate that supports various insect life and biological growth. Over time, the steep, rough terrain has created drainage problems, eroding and undermining headstones and paths while the roots of the large redwood trees have caused concrete-padded plots to buckle. In addition to the physical environment, there are human obstacles, such as a derelict population that occasionally resides back in the hillside, and has vandalized some headstones. Fraternal groups, such as the freemasons and E. Clampus Vitus (ECV), are active in the cemetery placing plaques to remembering historical figures as well as participating in annual cleaning events. For the past 30 years, elementary school children learn Santa Cruz history from Evergreen by visiting the gravesites of Death Valley schooner pioneers, Mexican alcade, Civil War veterans, and an assortment of colorful characters unique to the city. Dog walkers and families remembering loved ones are also active participants within the cemetery landscape. Besides the physical landscape and the human presence, the headstones and their character-defining features are in great need of preservation, which may range from removing biological growth to resetting a toppled headstone that was damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Like many other cemeteries, a lack of funding is crucial to maintenance and proper preservation.
The cemetery is managed by the Museum of Art & History (MAH), a Santa Cruz non-profit organization. The MAH staff were perplexed as to how to be good caretakers of the site and were new to historic preservation principles specific to the management of a cultural landscape such as Evergreen. In 2008, the Evergreen Cemetery Ad Hoc Committee was established, consisting of preservation professionals, historians, and interested community members, to create a management treatment document for the cemetery. The goal of the document was to articulate a list of short-term and long-term “priorities” that were site specific to Evergreen Cemetery and in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Properties. More so, the landscape needed to be understood, including how to handle the diversity of environmental challenges. In this presentation, Evergreen as it exists today will be addressed and correlated to how the Ad Hoc Committee created a list of priorities, and how these priorities are currently being implemented by MAH.
About Corri Jimenez
Corri Jimenez received her Masters degree in Historic Preservation from the University of Oregon, and serves on the Evergreen Cemetery Ad Hoc Committee as well as worked on the design of the “Evergreen Cemetery Preservation Plan.” She has led Evergreen Cemetery cleaning events, educating volunteers and cemetery enthusiasts on proper preservation principles on how to clean headstones. While in Washington DC, she participated with the National Park Service cleaning Battleground National Cemetery and Congressional Cemetery. While adjunct faculty at Montgomery College in 2004, she oversaw a Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) student class project documenting the Methodist Cemetery in Rockville.